How are you feeling today?
I feel pretty achy today, not really sore but I kind of tweaked my knee during the race. I didn’t really notice it yesterday but it’s hurting pretty good today. We’re out playing a round of golf right now, relaxing a little.
Three hours is a long time to be out there, let alone in the ridiculous heat. How did that affect your riding strategy?
There at the beginning of the race, I was out front with [Paul] Whibley and I was kind of following him for while. We were kind of taking it easy on the first lap and then I made a pass on him for the lead but I found myself kind of trying to push a little bit too much and I backed it down because I knew I wasn’t going to get away from him. I was trying to conserve as much energy as I could for the last two laps because I knew it was going to be brutal and I found myself a couple times using way too much energy. I just settled into a pace that I knew I could do the whole three hours.
Russell battled Whibley all the way to the finish in search of his first career victory.
Photo: Shan Moore
So you and Whibs switched off the lead throughout the race. You made up time through the moto section, where were your strong points out there?
I think maybe the last two or three miles I was a little bit faster but for the most part we were pretty even the whole time except for on the motocross track, I was a touch faster until the last lap I guess (laughs).
You guys were super close on the last lap, what was your strategy for that lap?
I really wasn’t strategizing at all; I don’t really think I was thinking anything at that point (laughs). The last lap I was right behind him [Whibley] and we got to the John Penton section [single track] and we both got hung up on a hill that had a bunch of lappers stuck on it. There weren’t a whole lot of places for us to go to get around them. I ended up getting up the hill before him and when I got to the top, I started trying to get back into the pace and I just couldn’t do it – my body was shutting down on me right there. He caught back up pretty fast and I let him by and he got away from me, probably putting 10-15 seconds on me there. When we got out of that section, I finally got my second wind - got the air back in my sails (laughs) and I caught back up to him about the last two and a half or three miles. He took an outside line around this hill and I went right up the middle of it through the ruts and stuff and ended up making the pass. Then we were close to the finish and I was just trying to hold him off. I knew he was going to be tough the last couple miles and I knew he was pushing just as hard as I was to get back around me.
Russell literally dropped to the ground after a grueling three-hour battle with Whibley.
Photo: Shan Moore
He passed you literally feet before the finish. Explain how that went down.
It was a pretty tough pill to swallow, seeing him jump right there beside me. For some reason, I had a feeling he was going to do it. I thought I could close the door on him but he got to the inside and it was over from there. When we got to the moto track I was just hoping to hold on. It was all I could do to hang on through the ruts and bumps out in the woods so when you put that added jumping in, I was already exhausted to where I wasn’t even thinking straight. I’m happy to get on the podium again this week for sure. It is what it is and Paul rode a great race.
When you pulled off the track, you dropped to the ground. Were you overheated? Sick?
Yeah I was just severely fatigued from the heat. Like I said, like halfway through that lap I could feel my body just shutting down on me, it wasn’t producing any more energy - it was all gone.