January 17, 2007 - Stage 1: Mawson Lakes - Tanunda , 152km
I think this morning I would've said I was disappointed I didn't make the break, but once we'd done about 15 or 20 kilometres of racing, I soon realised my efforts yesterday took a little bit out of the legs.
We were going up some of those short climbs before One Tree Hill pretty hard. I went with a few moves probably about five kilometres before the break got away; I had not bad legs, but I was under pressure there: I thought, "I could get in the break, but at the end of the day, I probably won't be worth a cracker at the finish." Now that I've got some speed, I decided to hold off and try and wait for another sprint finish.
When the big boys went crunch, there wasn't many guys that could go with them. Luckily, as it fell, we had one guy in there; if we didn't have [Yannick] Talabardon in there... pffft, I probably would've had to hurt myself a lot to get across to it! Now, looking back, I did predict right, but I'm glad I wasn't in there.
Originally, I think the break started as five or six, and there was couples going across on the climbs. There was one rider on each team and a couple had two riders from each team - everyone just sat up then. Once there was one rider from each team, that was it, the bunch was happy just to take it easy.
Yannick [Talabardon] was the last rider to get across, so we were lucky. If he didn't get across, we were going to have to ride, which our directeur would have made us do, to get someone in there. As it turns out, he's going the best out of our guys, so we were lucky to get him across [to the break].
The first stage is often the race decider; there's guys only just coming into the start of the season and they can't race day-in, day-out, full gas. There's probably more than 60, 70 percent of the peloton who want to take it easy, and just let the guys going well go up the road, and win amongst themselves. I think for sure, those top five guys are going to fight it out amongst themselves. Apparently Lars Bak was going pretty good. [Karl] Menzies is going to be hard to beat: this is prime time for him and he got third at the nationals. But in saying that, there's a couple of guys at 45 seconds and two minutes that aren't going to give up. But if I had money on it, I'd put it on one of those first five guys.
I know a little about "Killer Karl" Menzies. He's a mean-looking bloke, so I know why he's got the nickname, but he's probably a gentle giant... I've spoken with him a bit. He's a bloody good rider, actually - I've seen a lot of results over the Net in America, he cleans up a bit. Asking a few guys, he's kind of smartened up his tactics a little bit; he used to just try and ride away from us, but now he's willing to use tactics [to win] and that's why I think he's going to be hard to beat.
I think I'm a pretty good, big, solid road rider, but when I see guys like him and [Robert] Maclachlan, I just shake my head. Those guys ran second and third at the nationals and they've probably got 20 kilos on me, so I can't really use the excuse I'm too heavy and too big, because those guys are much bigger. I s'pose those guys are putting out a lot more power and burning a lot more energy, but at the end of the day, they've probably got more power and strength than me.
The next couple of days, there's probably going to be a couple of guys looking after Yannick in the team, a couple of the French guys. But it's going to be hard for him to move up; he's going to have to go for a few time bonuses or get in a break to move up. Otherwise, it's going to be down to Willunga, whether he can jump away there on the climb. It's only the early season, though - I think the best he can look at is to jump up into the top five, but it's definitely going to be a hard job for him.
Today was a long day and just the pressure that it's going to on every day for those guys... I'm actually happy that I might get another to have another sprint.
The other teams are going to make the call, though - I'm not going to put my guys on the front all day to make the sprint. If it's within reach, then definitely I'll throw my guys on the front 40, 50k out if it's at three or four minutes. But I think it's definitely my best bet: to try and get another bunch sprint finish.
That's the best thing about this team: if you think you've got good legs, then the team will ride for you no worries. With that in the back of your head, it adds a little bit of extra confidence, and now with the respect and self-belief that I know I can come over the top of Robbie McEwen, it plays a big part.
Robbie congratulated me last night after dinner and so did all the other boys. We all had a bit of a joke about it in the bunch today... "Shouldda put you over the fence!", "Why didn't you turn right?" It's good like that.
It's a pretty good bunch of Aussie sprinters now. I don't think there's too many hard feelings amongst any of them, but at the same time, it's hard in this kind of race not to make enemies. At the end of the day, if you have to put one of your mates on your hip and take him over, then you have to do it for the win.
Tomorrow, I think the Australian team will try and control it - but the problem is those three or four guys are in a couple of seconds of each other, so I think it's going to pan out that they'll probably be another break, maybe a group of three or four guys. Towards the end, I can see it coming back together again for a bunch sprint... I hope! That's what I'm hoping for.