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Our main goal was the team GC, so we had to watch Liberty, and any moves they made, we had to...

Stage 4 - January 21, 2006

Our main goal was the team GC, so we had to watch Liberty, and any moves they made, we had to retaliate. The group split and it split straight away, [the gap] staying at the same distance until after the first sprint. It was quite a healthy group up the road - 17 or so - and there was two Liberty. We didn't have any there at that stage.

I've seen that and just jumped across a bit before McLaren Vale; I had to ride across myself on those undulating hills and it was pretty hard. I just stepped back and done a flyer; when I attacked, no-one could go with me, because the group I was with had just finished their attacks and I just got across as quick as I could - I got across in a couple of k because I knew it was all or nothing then. The bunch just sat up.

I obviously couldn't work because there was two Liberty; if I had of worked, we would have lost the team GC. The whole bunch was a bit upset at that stage, fighting and not working. There was two AG2R not working and myself and a few other guys weren't working because we weren't. The bunch wasn't working real well, and then four others were trying to come across and we had Paul Crake there; [team manager] Dave Sanders was letting me know the time gap from Paul, so I just kept watching them - it was a really good effort for him to get away at that late stage.

It was then perfect for us: as soon as they got there, he helped me and we starting working straight away, trying to get as many as we could to work, but a lot were dying from the heat, not working and making excuses. We were lucky we had such a big time gap to hold it. But our bunch did a few good turns and I think that's when the main peloton sat up.

Dave rang through the next call half an hour later, and we were like five minutes, six minutes... then it blew out to 8'40 or something. On the way, Dave said to me on the radio that I was the [virtual] third overall; there was two other guys - one Belgian and one from Navigators - but they were looking really bad and I know they weren't the best of climbers.

At that stage, Dave was telling me there was a chance that if we stayed at that time, our bunch worked or the peloton sat up and played each other, there was a chance that I was a [overall] tour contender. He said if we can hold that time, it could happen because I knew I could put those other guys away on the climb.

On the last lap, about eight k before the bottom of the climb, I said to Dave: "This group's not working very well - should I have I go?" - and he said: "Well, if you're feeling good, wait for the right moment and have a go." I also said: "If the bunch keeps working, I won't have a go, because we'll keep gaining time on the peloton."

One guy took off through McLaren Vale, about five, six k to the climb and I knew he wasn't a very good climber; he just rode away and didn't really go too far. I trusted myself that I thought I could do it on that climb and I knew Paul was good on the hills, so the two of us together, I thought it was what could happen and it did happen.

I know that climb [Old Willunga Hill] really well, I've been training for that distance on the climbs, and I knew that was going to be the case that I could get over with anyone today - the only thing I didn't know was that I hold hang on to the finish over the top. That was where the surprise sort of came, I guess. We got to the top of the climb with a good lead and we kept getting time gaps and everything, and we both just said, "Look, this is all or nothing." We both put our heads down...

Across the top was really hard for me - Paul put in a bit more across the top than I could - and after we went down the hill, I got a bit of my breath back and we just worked together as hard as we could. Five k to go, I thought we were going to get it, because the last four k it turns left into a tailwind and I knew if we can get to the tailwind part with the same time gap, we'll hold it. And we actually increased the time - it went from 30 seconds to a minute in the end.

Just before the line, we started talking [about the win]. For the GC, for the sprint and all that, unfortunately for Paul, I had to take the win for the team and for the GC and the sprint comp, and just for the extra money in our team, even though we both shared the victory. I felt really bad for him; that is hard to do, but that shows he's a true sportsman and just to be able to do that, a true team-mate... it's awesome, the team's just so good together like that. Sure, any of the team would of done it and I would have done it back to any of them.

This would have to be the biggest win of my career... if I actually had won the national [road] title, I guess that would've been bigger, but just getting that jersey and winning today, I just know I can do it with these guys now. I just know I can when I'm ready for it.

I hope the selectors [for Commonwealth Games] hear me now; if they don't, I'm running out of races to show them!

At the moment, I'm just taking one race at a time, and ever since I started my training at the end of last season, it was training for the Commonwealth Games; not for nationals, not for Down Under - it was for the Commonwealth Games. I've been telling everyone that and it seems to be working, taking one thing at a time, so that's the way I'll keep thinking.

Thanks to my supporters who've always believed in me,
Russ

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