Jack Haig breezes into the foyer of the Hilton Resort in Adelaide, recent from his coaching trip trying relaxed, relaxed and glad to be again on the Tour Down Underneath, a race that helped launch him right into a WorldTour skilled biking profession. It has been a very long time between drinks, with the rider not having taken on his residence WorldTour race since 2015, and this time he’s strolling again into it as a really completely different rider.
The 30-year-old adopted a pathway into biking that began when he embraced mountain biking as a teen in Bendigo. He has by no means raced the Tour Down Underneath as a WorldTour rider. In his first look, he was racing for the nationwide staff and completed simply over a minute behind victor Richie Porte on the essential climb of Willunga Hill, stacking up credibly with a twenty first place on that stage among the many WorldTour peloton. He turned skilled later that yr with Orica-GreenEdge.
This yr, he is the GC chief for Bahrain Victorious on the Tour Down Underneath and is likely one of the nation’s prime biking abilities as one of many only a few riders from the nation who has stepped onto a Grand Tour total podium. Nevertheless, within the race run-up hype, his presence by some means appears low-key.
Possibly it is all the way down to the truth that the house staff Jayco-AlUla draw the majority of the eye, or possibly it’s his calm, down-to-earth manner washing by means of. Or maybe it is that he isn’t speaking up his prospects in a race the place the terrain and timing are usually not ideally suited. You get the sense he is simply glad to be right here, and no matter comes subsequent is a bonus.
“Attempting to slot in Down Underneath is getting tougher and tougher however as an Australian, I really like coming again right here,” Haig informed Cyclingnews. “It is tremendous good to be in the summertime and to see plenty of acquainted faces. After which it is also good to say hi there to the nationwide staff and see a few of the new Australians developing and take a look at simply, I do not know, hang around with them and move on some expertise and assist them.”
Outcomes, after all, nonetheless matter, however within the early phases of the race, issues weren’t precisely all operating his approach, with crashes hitting his staff, which already had cut up aims given sprinter Phil Bauhaus was additionally on the beginning checklist. However Haig – who was additionally fairly glad to leap within the staff line to work and attempt to arrange the dash – was holding agency within the GC by means of the early sprint-focused phases.
On the finish of stage 3 Haig was amongst a giant group of riders sitting, not proper on the prime of the outcomes desk earlier than the essential twin summit weekend, however a minimum of within reach of the highest spot. This group included pre-race favourites like Julian Alaphilippe (Soudal-QuickStep) and Simon Yates (Jayco-AlUla) – a rider Haig is aware of effectively, having been a vital assist teammate throughout his 2018 Vuelta a España win.
Once we spoke to Haig earlier than the race, his goal was a very good GC end result “possibly a prime 5” end on GC.
“I am fairly sensible that it is actually early within the season and you’ve got some guys that particularly goal this, particularly the GreenEdge staff [Jayco-AlUla], it’s clearly a vital race for them,” stated the rider that began his profession with the staff.
“Whereas possibly for me it is extra vital to focus extra on the March-April interval main into Paris-Good, Catalunya interval. It is extra about simply getting a very good race, coming again to Australia, having fun with a little bit of summer season, seeing some family and friends and saying hi there to the biking neighborhood right here.”
His sports activities director Neil Stephens, a former bicycle owner who has additionally labored throughout groups from the Australian WorldTour outfit Jayco-AlUla to UAE Crew Emirates earlier than shifting to Bahrain, was way more reluctant to place a quantity on it, however maybe way more encouraging when speaking of his rider’s type.
“My approach of doing it’s you do not actually quantify what you need to do, since you do not actually know the extent of different riders. I do know Jack’s stage, he’s in actually fine condition,” Stephens informed Cyclingnews on the beginning line of stage 2, in the principle buying strip of Norwood.
“Is he ideally suited to this terrain? I do not know if he’s ideally suited, longer climbs could be higher for him, however clearly longer climbs could be higher for different riders as effectively, however it’s what it’s.”
Whichever approach the Tour Down Underneath goes, it was a begin to the yr that boded effectively for Haig the final time he was right here. Maybe this time it additionally might be as soon as once more.
Tour curse transferred to Giro
Haig is heading into a brand new season after one which wasn’t horrible, however it additionally wasn’t his finest. A tenth place at Paris-Good was adopted by a 3rd on the Tour of the Alps. That boded effectively for the Giro d’Italia, the massive goal for the yr which he was taking up after an annoying run of two years of unavoidable crashes on the Tour de France. Then Haig, with bike dealing with abilities grounded in his mountain biking background and who had previously so not often crashed, had his Giro plans foiled by one other.
“It was extra irritating as effectively as a result of it was within the feed zone with a staff soigneur who swung a feed bag into my handlebars,” stated Haig. “So it is simply one other a type of issues the place it was simply dangerous luck.
“The identical factor as once I crashed within the Tour de France [in 2022] and I broke my wrist – that was as a result of a motorcycle hit a hay bale that Primož Roglič crashed into, after which I simply occurred to be subsequent to Primož. And this once more is simply dangerous luck.”
He completed, the Giro however the crash took its toll, and the Italian Grand Tour did not ship the outcomes he’d been hoping for.
Then after performing effectively on the Critérium du Dauphiné with fifth total, Haig and his staff then sat down and made the late choice so as to add the Tour de France again into his schedule in 2023. Mikel Landa was the supported rider, with Pello Bilbao as co-leader. Haig went there looking stage wins and alternatives from the break. Whereas these alternatives and stage outcomes did not materialise, he did relish the contribution he made to the staff, notably when serving to his teammate Matej Mohorič win stage 19, and ending with out crashing too.
“I had a very nice time on the Tour de France as effectively. The group of riders that had been there was tremendous good,” stated Haig. “So the season was personally not nice – team-wise, I feel I used to be in a position to contribute through the yr. However I am sort of hoping that now this season I can have a number of extra private aims that get ticked off.”
The genetic lottery
Haig’s plans for the season embrace Paris-Good and Volta Ciclista a Catalunya as the primary European objectives, then the Ardennes Classics, the Critérium du Dauphiné and a visit again to the Tour de France.
“I am sort of trying to attempt to get strong prime 5 GC positions in a few of these week-long stage races main as much as the Tour. Then we’ve fairly a robust staff for the Ardennes Classics … so I am going there, supporting in addition to in search of a chance after which we’ll go to the Tour de France with most likely myself and Pello.”
Haig stated the staff would most likely undertake the same strategy to final yr’s Tour de France – the place Bahrain Victorious took three stage victories with three riders and Bilbao was sixth total. There was a change in mindset on expectations, that has considerably been compelled by the present actuality inside the peloton.
“I feel we’re seeing now that there is this small group of riders, that’s possibly a stage above everybody else. Yeah, so you could have Primož [Roglič], Jonas [Vingegaard], [Tadej] Pogačar and Remco [Evenepoel]. So it is getting tougher to attempt to goal a podium in France.”
That additionally goes for the remainder of the Grand Excursions.
“In fact, I want to return and attempt to repeat what I did on the Vuelta however I feel the game’s moved on a bit bit from then,” stated Haig. “To be sincere, I am undecided I am on the similar stage as them, and I feel possibly they’ve simply received the genetic lottery a bit bit higher than I did.
“It’s kind of exhausting to say out loud, however these guys are most likely higher than me.”
The dominance of key riders has made the competitors more and more intense to search out the rostrum spots, however Haig has removed from dropped his ambitions for top finishes, possibly simply as an alternative fine-tuned his measure of what would make a profitable yr given the inescapable realities which have been positioned earlier than him.
So what would spell a profitable season?
“Like I stated, most likely a prime 5 in one in every of these week-long stage races after which both I might actually prefer to get a stage win in a Grand Tour or to do one other good GC in a Grand Tour, in order that’s most likely a prime 5 at a Grand Tour.”
After which maybe begin the 2025 season in Australia yet again.
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