Team Cyclingnews.com - Down Under - 2004
Tour of Hungary - 2.6, July 26 - August 1
We want a wild-card!
By Nathan "Chookman" Russell
We arrived in Hungary with a grand total of 1300km on the clock. I was surprised to see machine gun-toting guards beside the freeway and many of the roads reminded me of country New South Wales. In my very weary state felt at home for the first time this year. That lasted until the moment I had to communicate or try to read anything in Hungarian. Very few people in Hungary speak any English and no words have any resemblance to the English translation. The currency was very different, too - 1 Euro = 250 Forints. Tour management greeted us and made sure we were settled in to our cosy accommodation that reminded me of days gone by with Dominic Caravello in new the Tour of New Caledonia - minus the French.
In the morning the gods greeted me with a Lavazza-equipped coffee shop directly opposite the hotel and double macchiatos got us out for a few hrs in the rolling country side.
A familiar face of Tommy Bucacek (more Aussie than Czech) was found at dinner and it was great see him. Hopefully the Herald-Sun Tour should once again see his name on the start list.
The list of teams included two Hungarian teams, Slovakians, Germans, two French, Dutch, Russians... and the list goes on.
The prologue was 3.5km and was given the nod by all riders. It snaked through the middle of town on hot mix roads with two potentially fast corners. The finish headed up to a castle on roads surfaced with cobbles except for a narrow metal drain. This was a must if you wanted to give this stage a nudge. An even mix of hard house, visualization, no brakes and some well due form gave me 4th and 6 seconds off the lead. Still no podium.
Stage 1 was a full day on the pedals with most of the day being affected by cross winds. Phil gained some valuable time on the last climb leaving me and Cody to dabble in a bunch kick after an exciting descent. There was a chicane at 200m to go so I gassed it to there and let Cody take over. 9th and 10th for us and disappointed at the time lost but confident with the form.
Stage 2 would have been a great stage to win, and Phil did it with class. Cameron and Phil made it into the early break and with Cameron taking on the role of working, Phil's fresh pins at the end gave him a lead of a minute. Even the kilometre of 18 percent cobbled climb didn't rattle his cage. Me, on the other hand, I had to put the brain on the shelf and drag my bike up at 9km/h, making beeping noises like a reversing Daihatsu. I cross the line and hear "Chookman!" and a blast from the past stands there with a grin, a guy I worked with 10 years ago at Clarence St Cycles. Very cool and very unexpected. I dropped to 20th on GC. Funky got the leader's jersey.
Stage 3 TTT - One mechanical and an average of 48km/h was way off the freaks that averaged 54km/h. To our credit we stuck to our plan and all rode on our limits. Not a lot to say about a time trial really, they hurt.
Stage 4 and 5 - Not a lot to say here, the Slovaks sat on the front for 160k and averaged 45kph. Impressive.
I finished a few minutes down after not having the goods on the final climb. This proved to be a common occurrence on these stages. The cookie crumbled.
Stage 6 - Only David Copperfield could put on a magic show like this. With 10km to go 3 riders had over a minute's lead on a very toey bunch. It was our game plan that if Funky Phil wasn't able to get up the road then it was all hands on deck for Cody in the kick. On the 3 finish laps it was time to reel in the trio. All aboard the night train!! And the chase was on with Ricey, Cameron, Funky and myself feeding it some serious chain.
With 2km to go the gap was down to 25 seconds the crowd was getting geed and our DS on the fence was wetting his pants. At one lap to go it was 10 seconds. At 500 m to go we had them.
Coming into the last corner the opposition swarmed around the lead-out that had now come down to this little chicken whose job was to put Cody in a winning position at the 200m mark. A cunning move at full noise got this job done and no one ever looked like coming around our pocket rocket.
We all had the buzz from the win and even impressed ourselves with the professional way in which we pulled it off. It was good timing as well with Jean-Marie LeBlanc along for a look-see. (Wild card! Very wild...) It was time for a well deserved beer and a quick sneak peek at Budapest, before putting another 1300k on the incognito Vito aka our Mercedes van.
As a wise Willo once said "Tour over".