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Russell Van Hout

Russell Van Hout (Uni SA)

A dream run - but it ain't over

Cycling News
January 23, 2006, 0:00 GMT,
April 22, 2009, 20:23 BST

I didn't go bananas last night [a 'Legends' dinner was held for the bike riders - ed.]. After...

Stage 5 - January 22, 2006

I didn't go bananas last night [a 'Legends' dinner was held for the bike riders - ed.]. After yesterday, I moved up to seventh on GC, third place in the king of the mountains and I was equal leader on the points classification, so I wasn't going to give up. It wasn't difficult to wait one more night to have a few drinks.

I'm happy with my tour, but it would have been good to come away with the sprint class. We did whatever we could, guys got up the road and took points for me, and coming up to the sprint, I knew the only one that could beat me was Alby in the end. I wasn't disappointed though - I never came into the tour to go for that one, so I'm happy to be there and come second.

For all of our team, it was so good to get up on the podium; we've all tried, everyone has done everything for the team, not for themselves. When teams are put together like that, it's always going to be a bit of risk - you can never guarantee it's going to be a good team. And this was just awesome: everyone just rode so well together; I think AG2R was a strong team - they did what they had to do - but I think we did what we had to do. We were probably the most aggressive team, putting everyone in breaks, never missed anything - every plan we made, we stuck to it and did it to the best of our ability. And ninety-five percent of the time, our plans paid off.

I've had an exceptional week or last couple of weeks. I'm really happy with what I've done; I've done everything I could to show them [the selectors] about what I want - second in the sprint comp, I've won a stage, seventh overall on the GC, state champion, national champion and fourth in the [national] time trial, I've just had a great start to the year... I really couldn't get much better.

Some have asked me whether I feel like I'm in different company with my peers; I haven't thought of it like that - my profile has raised a lot after this last week or so, but I'm still the same me... nothing's going to change. I've actually had a couple of phone calls from other teams; I sort of said, 'Well, make an offer' and they haven't. But that's not an interest of mine at the moment.

We'll know within a week about the [Commonwealth] Games, and I'll plan the program up from then. I'll probably have a few days of rest, put my legs up, have a lot of sleep and really recover from all the heat. Speaking about the heat, and Matt Lloyd's crash yesterday where he lost consciousness, it goes to show us riders really race in all conditions and ninety percent of other sports would not be there doing that.

It's such a physical, gruelling, athletic sport - a lot of people don't realise how hard it is out there. This was only four road stages and two crits; I consider after doing two Giri d'Italia, nothing's hard to back up again.

When I feel fresh enough, I'll start a new program to build up even a little bit better. I'll work on what course the Commonwealth Games is going to be and the time trial, if I'm in that as well. The local scene is quite strong, strong enough that I can get good training out of. I used a lot of that to get fit for this tour, and if I do my training and the local races as well, it ends up being a really, really solid day.

Whenever I've put my mind to something, I've somehow seemed to get there and do it. So for me, I know the chances are a bit against me, but I think I've done everything I can now... it's out of my hands. I would of thought I've done enough now, including my past results.

After a few drinks tonight, it's back on track straight away. There's a chance I maybe riding the track nationals; I will do a test run of a 4000 metre pursuit, and I won't ride unless I'm going to be competitive. I haven't ridden the track for six years and it's a big difference. Obviously, I'll have the form coming out of this, but the track's still different; it's on the agenda, but I'll just wait and see for that.

Just on a topical note, some people have been asking about my plait. It was a bet a year and four months ago, growing an Anakin Skywalker on the side of my head. Once a year was up, I just haven't cut it off yet; I've had the scissors ready, but it just hasn't chopped. It's nearly time for it to come off, maybe right now... CHOP!

Only joking - I didn't do it :)

Check ya later and cheers,

P.S. It still hasn't sunk in wearing the green and gold jersey in front of everyone and now the stage win this week... it'll sink in soon. It's been pretty much a dream run for me - I'm just happy to be sharing this feeling in my home town with everyone I know.


Cycling News
January 21, 2006, 0:00 GMT,
April 21, 2009, 11:56 BST

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,

A sticky situation

Cycling News
January 20, 2006, 0:00 GMT,
April 21, 2009, 11:56 BST

Well, we went out for the teams class today, if we figured if Liberty had one or two [in the break],...

Stage 3 - January 20, 2006

Well, we went out for the teams class today, if we figured if Liberty had one or two [in the break], we would have one or two to match that.

So we did everything we had to do, and it worked out as good as could for that; but [for the stage win], the Liberty rider [Barredo] was too strong in the end and rode away - he was just too good a the time. From what I heard, he was ridiculously too strong for that bunch. Liberty has certainly come here with a very strong team; it must be in their program of events to run [well] in a few tours early in the season.

But overall, we kept our lead in the teams - it did narrow down a bit - but we kept our lead by a few minutes; now one more road stage... we're going to keep fighting it. Everything can change tomorrow though; it can change very easily. The heat's definitely getting to people, and it's going to get hotter tomorrow, so there's going to be a lot of people really cruising up that hill and rolling to the finish - but not UniSA!

It was so hot today that just after the stage, I was waiting to get into the van to drive home and my shoes nearly came off my foot because it was stuck on the road! Then the tar was stuck on the floor of the car... it's still on my shoes now! Tomorrow, we might get some see breezes, but it's going to be a hot day; two or three days like that, if the riders aren't used to it, they're cooked.

Everyone was feeling pretty good today; Matt [Hayman] and Ben [Day] did a great job - congratulations. Obviously, they won't be expected to do anything major over the hill tomorrow because they'll be affected a little bit, but they might be able to do a bit of work before the climb, keeping the rest of us satisfied and we'll take over once we hit the climb, I guess.

That's where the race starts every year on the Willunga stage - not that I like it like that, but it just does; it's too hard a course to break away, and it's showed every year. Breaks have tried, but it's gruelling bitumen, undulating hills and strong winds, and from what I can remember, no one's stayed in a breakaway before the climb.

There will be a break that goes, though - I just don't think it will be the right move. If a Liberty guy goes, one of us will go; we've haven't had a discussion [about that yet], but that's just the obvious plan - we're just going to have to match everything they do. We're have to protect our teams [classification], if we protect our teams, we're obviously protecting Gene's and Chris [Jongewaard's] places as well, because they'll be watching the better-placed Liberty riders. Looking at it right now, I think it's best if we win the teams [above all else], and if we win the teams, we've going to have Gene and Jongewaard in the top 10.

Having said all that, myself and Paul Crake might be able to get sneak away just before the climb and they [Liberty] might watch each other and not chase us down for the stage [win].

Now, the [winning] break might not happen until after climb; last year, I was working for Gene [Bates] and I led him up the climb and we pretty much caught everyone halfway up the climb. But with 500 metres to go, the Spanish guys just hit us; they hit us that hard that we had to say, 'We've just got to keep riding our tempo because they've just gone.'

It was very close to the top and we could just see them going over the top, but there was three of them and they just hammered it to the finish. If Liberty get away like they did last year, they'll win the tour. If we can't go with them and they get three up the road like that, they'll take teams and individual GC... we've just got to make sure they don't do it! That can happen, but it doesn't happen like that every year. I'll be surprised if it does happen again like that, you can't mirror the race; if Gerrans gets with them, they'll start playing one on one.

I think Gerrans will win. That's all I'm going to say.

AG2R did exactly what they needed to do today, but as they would be, they were looking tired towards the end - that's human. Their job will be to work to the bottom of the climb, and they're only going to be two riders - Gerrans and the little guy [Dumoulin] - maybe one more of them if they can, so it's going to come down to whether Gerrans can stay with them on the climb.

Personally, I've had a few misfortunes and punctures in the tour. After that first day, I thought it was definitely reachable to get top 10 until I had a puncture the other day. I really wanted to impress the selectors for my Commonwealth Games run; I feel like I'm ready for the Games, I'm training for the Games, and I feel like I'm coming up in form.

I've had a really good month, and I was hoping for a little bit more than I've had, but getting that road jersey was a big bonus and I hope that try me out for once. They [the selectors] haven't used me before, so I think it's about time they at least found it if I could do something.

Ciao for now,

Teamwork to a T

Cycling News
January 19, 2006, 0:00 GMT,
April 21, 2009, 11:56 BST

We're all strong riders, but there's no sprinter, so our team plan today was for all of us to be up...

Stage 1 - January 18, 2006

We're all strong riders, but there's no sprinter, so our team plan today was for all of us to be up there [in the breaks] to take out the teams classement, and maybe a few of us might be strong enough to hold onto GC.

Everything went perfectly for us. Within five k or so, [team-mate Robert] McLachlan and Sean Higgerson [South - AIS] went up the road and that was good for us - we could just follow their moves after that and sure enough, when that first small hill [sprint] came along after 20k, they [the attacks] started and we had all of us up there going with them. We had a go at that [the KOM] too but just got nudged out - I was trying to help Gene [Bates], but we weren't successful.

It was just on for the next 15k until those 25 riders or so got away. We caught the other two, but the main group, I thought they were going to get us at one stage. Coming up to that [first] sprint, I was ready to make a move; I was watching the time gaps come down - it went from a minute to 30 seconds to 15 - I knew the roads exactly to that point.

But it went back out and we just waited and kept working because we had five up there; we kept slogging away pretty hard. When that first sprint came, a few guys at the front were looking at each other and I just took off quickly for that and got away just in time. After that sprint, the bunch kept on working a bit better; obviously, that's when we started getting that time away from the bunch and they gave up.

We worked well for 40-odd k until it split, around the 100 kilometre mark. McEwen and another rider [Sanchez] rolled off the front, not really attacking, but when they turned 'round and saw they had a little gap, they took off and a few counters went. We got across to 'em and the bunch split in half.

The next split was around 40 to go and I was feeling a little bit bad at that stage. I went back to get a drink, thought maybe some water would help, then the next split went while I was back at the team car... I just had enough to get back onto the group, but not enough to get onto the break.

We went downhill and Gene took off, he got with a little group, then [team-mate] Chris Jongerwaard took off; me and Sean [Sullivan] sat in - there was nothing we could do. It was actually pretty good we had two up there; unfortunately Gene and Jongerwaard never got across to the front four, but it's still good to have two up there 'cos we were the only team with that.

Our group just did nothing - we lost a fair bit of time quickly - but sort of started working with 20k to go, not very well. I took off in the last two k just for the team classement - I didn't know if any of those guys with us were dangerous. It was for 11th or 12th place, but for the teams [classification], I didn't know if I had to beat these guys or whatever. But a pretty good day, really: we got the teams by 10 minutes!

I'm in the sprint jersey. I'm not winning it - Gerrans is - but there's four of us on six points and because I won the other sprint, I got the jersey. Obviously, I'm not going to win it if it comes down to sprints, but I'm a pretty strong rider where I can get up the road and sneak sprints here and there, just from attacking with a k to go or something. Now that I've got it, I'll be trying; I really want to win something this tour. Now, I'm also four and a half minutes off the lead in 12th GC, so I'll still be riding for GC and the teams [classification] is looking really good. Really good.

What happened today isn't unusual; the first 20 get away, the bunch will sit up when the right riders are up the road, and after that, it narrows down the riders that you're watching, so it's hard to get time after that. [Simon] Gerrans is in a very good spot; it will be very hard to make up time, but cycling's cycling, and it's not impossible - we'll be trying to get Gene up there.

Half of the guys from Europe are not in their [peak] fitness, and when the right riders are up the road, they will just sit back; if someone keeps wanting to get away, they're just going to stop [chasing], and if they're happy with who's up the road, they'll just close the race down.

We haven't had a team meeting, but I would think it's very important to keep Gene in the top five. It's also very important if we can get a few in the top ten overall, concentrate on the teams [classification] and the jerseys and trying to get a stage - if we can do any of those and have two or three in the top ten overall, that's good as well. We're just going to take one day at a time, but at the end of the day, our number one goal is to win the tour and if we can get Gene to sneak back some time, and it looks like we can do it, we'll do it and put everything into it.

Overall, I still feel really good. I see a lot of guys hurting a lot, and I had a few bad moments in the race, but I think I saw a lot of other guys having worse. There's still a lot of fresh guys, but most of them aren't fit enough for it, anyway.

I'm still confident in myself; it's good when you've done the preparation and just know you can be there. It's the type of guess where you've got to be aggressive to be there, I guess.

Cheers, Russ

A few upsets; now it's all about the break

Cycling News
January 19, 2006, 0:00 GMT,
April 21, 2009, 11:56 BST

I actually went and did a five k warm-up before the race, because I knew I was going to be one of...

Stage 2 - January 19, 2006

I actually went and did a five k warm-up before the race, because I knew I was going to be one of the riders in the early break to try and get away - and I'm glad I did, they felt a bit funny!

But when the race started, I felt really good - I was up there with everything and I actually felt good all day bar 20 kilometres in the middle; you're going to have a downer at some point in the race where you're not going to feel 100 percent, and that was probably around the middle of the race for me today. Either side of that, I felt absolutely awesome and I'm happy with my form.

We knew it was going to be a break; we knew they wouldn't let Gene [Bates] go, but we were hoping they would let me or Robert Maclachlan go, so our goal was to get me or him up the road in the first 20 [kilometres] to try and get over the KOM.

I ended up getting in a small break about five k before the KOM with two other riders, but with the bunch attacking, they caught me with 400 metres to go, so that was a bit of a bummer. But it made the race really hard for the first 40[km], which made that [winning] breakaway get away.

We had Crake up the road and they [the break] were only at 20, 25 seconds when the AG2R team called a piss-stop in the bunch, and I think that was maybe a little bit uncalled for when the break was so close. Teams might have wanted to get across still, and if we attacked when they were doing that [taking a toilet break], everyone thinks that's rude. I think when the break's that close, that's a little bit rude, too - a little bit of respect [is warranted]. Nothing against Simon [Gerrans] or his team, but if we didn't have a rider in that break, I or one of our other team members would have been going if they hadn't called that.

We did have two in it, but three or four of the riders came back and one of our riders was in that. Paul had an awesome day to stay away and hit the group with 30 or 40 to go - good ride from him. Unfortunately, Liberty had the two riders there, so they caught up seven minutes on us on the team GC.

Alby's [Allan Davis] a top bloke and very, very good professional rider - he deserves a win here and he's done it well. Unfortunately for Paul, he's never going to beat Alby in a sprint and he had to get away. He tried - he went at 30, 40k to go and Alby caught him in the middle of that - but he still rode an awesome race and I think to finish second behind a classy rider like Allan, it's nothing to be ashamed of.

I'm sure Alby would have been thinking Paul's not an experienced road rider all the time in that break. He's the best sprinter there and you just know what sort of gaps you can ride across to; he would have read that race a bit better than Paul. It does come down to experience, and getting to know yourself and other riders.

For myself, I was a little bit upset because after the first day, I thought it was very possible for me to reach top ten on GC with my form. I still will try, but I lost a minute today; I had a puncture at three kilometres to go at the bottom of the hill, and I could never get back on the group when they're moving to the finish like that. I lost one minute and four spots on the GC for myself - it doesn't look good when I'm trying to impress the selectors for Commonwealth Games... so I hope they understand that.

It was me against the bunch and you're going to lose time. Now that I've lost another minute, maybe they might let me go now and I can aim for a stage win. AG2R rode a very strong race - they had to for Simon - but at least three to four riders from each team is not handling it because of the heat or because of their preparation. There is half the bunch that is not handling it well.

I'm lucky in that I generally get better as the tour goes on and I am feeling good; I'm seeing a lot of the other guys really starting to suffer already; it was 41 degrees out there today and each day's getting hotter. By Saturday, it's goes to be like 44, 45 out there on the road - ridiculous temperatures... I'm ready for this heat. I've been training around in this heat for a few weeks now, and most years, Tour Down Under has been hot; there's only been a couple where it hasn't been, so I'd rather race in the heat than the rain.

Tomorrow's all about the break, and if the race is going to go similar to today, once the guys get up the road that aren't any threat to Simon or the other GC riders, they'll [AG2R - Prevoyance] will try and shut [the chase] down and let it go. Hopefully, they'll realise I'm not a threat now, being nearly six minutes down, and they might let me go...

In a breakaway, I also have a good chance to win the sprints and different guys won the sprints today, so I'm still in fourth and I'm only a sprint win away from leading it again. And if I am in a breakaway and get a result in a stage, I'm going to get some time back on that in general classement. So my main goal now is to get in a break and go for a stage, because everything else will come with that.


Slowly sinking in

Cycling News
January 17, 2006, 0:00 GMT,
April 21, 2009, 11:56 BST

Tonight was really fast - maybe faster than usual - and with the four sprints, it was fast in...

January 17, 2005

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.

Russell Van Hout

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. Australia UK USA