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Go Russ Go! The Russell Van Hout diary

Newly-crowned Australian road champ Russell Van Hout isn't here for a holiday. In the form of his life, he's come to the Jacob's Creek Tour Down Under on a mission: to confirm his ability in a major stage race and convince selectors of his worth for the 2006 Commonwealth Games in Melbourne. Join Cyclingnews as we embark on our week-long road trip with Russ.

January 17, 2005

Slowly sinking in

Tonight was really fast - maybe faster than usual - and with the four sprints, it was fast in between the sprints and I guess it was good for the crowd to have it like that and lucky the riders took it so seriously.

I tried to help the team wherever I could and found myself helping them on the second sprint - and ended up getting away and winning the sprint! So I was happy with that at the start, to know that I've started off the Tour and feeling strong and already been on the podium for the sprint.

It's funny how both Willo [Trent Wilson] and I both have such good form so early in the season. Maybe staying away from each other is a good thing :)

Seriously, though, for myself, I've had a bigger break than normal, and really rested that whole break, but when I got back into it, I just trained, had a lot of massages - two or three a week - and really good ones, and a lot of rest in between training. And it's really helped me a lot.

Now, I set goals into my training, and by the time I reached my first race I wanted to go well in, I won it quite comfortably. The state championships showed me I was on track, and I knew I had the form for the Australian Open; I just had to be aggressive and stay up the road... and it worked.

I always knew coming into it that I was fit as anyone else there and as strong as anyone else, so I was confident I could do it, although I never expected to do it. The last few years I've done the nationals, they've panned out the same way, so I knew if I was aggressive, I had the fitness to be there in the end.

The jersey's slowly sinking in - to race here in front of that of that size crowd, and being a local with a lot of people supporting me, I quite a few more fans out there tonight than I had before. It's still sinking in... but I'm loving wearing it.

I've signed up with Savings & Loans to race here for the year. What I'm trying to prepare for is the Commonwealth Games, so I wanted to be in good form in January and try and be selected to be in my best form in March. I'm right on target - I'm going to hit my form in March - and winning the national championships, mentally is fantastic.

The teams approaching me for a contract [Russell has a clause that allows him to leave the team, but only on the grounds of an offer from a higher ranked team - ed.], I'm sort of not thinking about it; I'm taking each race as it comes. My short and long term goal has been getting ready for the Commonwealth Games - time trial or whatever I can get in. But if some team offered me some phenomenal deal, I would have to think about it.

I want to win something here - and not a just sprint prime. Whether it to be a jersey or on the podium for the overall or something like that, I want to be there. I think a few of our riders on our team have the same sort of goals, and we have a strong team - the UniSA team has always done very well, and I think we are going to do well.

There are obviously a few riders who are standing out in our team - Gene Bates is looking very comfortable, but there's a few riders that aren't quite as ready and they've said they're willing to work. But even though they've said they're not in as good form, riders of our level in our team, we're pretty much all professionals and when the time comes, you rise for it.

If they end up in those positions, I'm sure they would lift and I think our whole team has the ability to do it. But it will narrow itself out in the next couple of days.