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ARTHURS SEAT, Australia (VN) —Saturday’s fourth stage of the 2011 Jayco Herald Sun Tour promised much and delivered plenty, but panned out in a way that few expected.
A Russian Tour de France rider not mentioned among the day’s favorites won the 131.6km Searoad Ferries stage from Sorrento to Arthurs Seat, while an Aussie lad full of dreams stole the yellow jersey on the biggest day of his cycling life.
Nathan Haas came to take part in what he describes as his Genesys Wealth Advisers team’s most important race of the year, with his eyes firmly on the best under-23 rider crown. But he now sits on the precipice of achieving something far greater.
Following Saturday’s super effort he not only wears the race leader’s jersey but also has 10 seconds’ insurance over Garmin-Cervélo’s Australian road champion, Jack Bobridge, heading into Sunday’s final stage on Lygon Street. Saxo Bank-Sungard’s Jonas Jorgensen is third at 29 seconds but looks out of contention for the top honor.
The stage was won by Katusha’s Igor Silin, a former under-23 world championships bronze medalist, who left it until the final 2km of the last of three climbs up to Arthurs Seat to stake his claim for victory.
The 23-year-old was in the end a relatively easy victor by 16 seconds over the jousting Haas and Bobridge, both 22, who filled the minor placings. But already 10 minutes behind the leaders at the start of the day, Silin’s success had no real impact on the overall standings.
“I am very happy. This is my first professional stage victory,” Silin said.
“The finish was very nice for me as I climbed very well. I thank my team – they did a very good job.”
The real interest, though, was in what was happening just behind him. Once the two found themselves alone, Haas possessed a major advantage over his more decorated Australian rival.
Having started the day eight seconds in front of Bobridge, he knew that he only had to stick with him to take yellow – overnight leader Rhys Pollock (Drapac Cycling) was around a minute behind them.
In a desperate struggle Haas prevailed, gaining a precious two extra bonus seconds over his rival.
Haas could not have been happier, proud for what he had he achieved for the team he clearly regards so highly and to have been able to do so in front of his family, who he confessed had never seen him in a bike race before. They were going to make the most of the day regardless, someone even producing a catchy banner, proclaiming their boy, “The Haasinator.”
“It feels pretty awesome. To be honest I’m trying to just stay pragmatic about it because there’s still another stage tomorrow so it’s not finished yet,” Haas said.
“Tomorrow it’s crits and I really love crits. It’s something that we do a lot in the (Australian) National Road Series so I feel as if I’m not handicapped at all. My team’s going to be looking after me as well.
“Whatever happens tomorrow I feel as though I’ve come away with a good win inside. It feels really good because I’m starting to realize one of my goals and some of the things I’ve sacrificed to be able to do this. It’s really nice to have something big like this happen.”
Haas disclosed a longtime admiration for the man he will again face Sunday in the race to become the 59th winner of Australia’s oldest stage race.
“To come up against someone like Bobridge who I’ve admired since I was a junior, it’s just a dream and I still can’t believe it’s happening,” Haas said.
He also told of the advice he had from another rider whose career was launched through the Genesys program.
“I spoke to my mate Richie Porte before the race – after the Tour of Tassie and he sent me a good message just saying, ‘You’ve got to trust that you are as good as these guys because they’re not supermen,'” he said.
“I came into this race really trusting his words and on the first day I really backed myself and gave myself the opportunity to do it.”
It now all comes down to Sunday’s final stage – a 15-lap race of a 4.1km circuit based on Carlton’s Lygon Street. Three, two and one bonus seconds are available for the two intermediate sprints at the end of laps five and ten, with 10, six and four seconds for the final sprint.
- 1. Egor Silin (Rus), Team Katusha, 3:20:54
- 2. Nathan Haas (Aus), Genesys Wealth Advisers, at 0:16
- 3. Jack Bobridge (Aus), Garmin-Cervélo, at 0:16
- 4. Artem Ovechkin (Rus), Team Katusha, at 0:19
- 5. Lachlan Norris (Aus), Drapac Porsche Cycling, at 0:23
- 1. Nathan Haas (Aus), Genesys Wealth Advisers, 15:11:20
- 2. Jack Bobridge (Aus), Garmin-Cervélo, at 0:10
- 3. Jonas Aaen Jörgensen (Den), Saxo Bank-Sungard, at 0:29
- 4. Reinardt Janse Van Rensburg (RSA), Mtn Cycling, at 0:33
- 5. Jens Debusschere (Bel), Omega Pharma-Lotto, at 0:34