A return to form for Nathan Haas
After a self-described “two-year hiatus,” Nathan Haas is back on the Australian cycling radar after finishing fifth in the Santos Tour Down Under last week. Jono Lovelock spoke to the Garmin-Sharp rider about his return to form and his plans for the year ahead.
On stage three of this year’s Santos Tour Down Under Nathan Haas blasted his way up Corkscrew Road before latching on to the back of the group that eventually caught Richie Porte (Sky) and Simon Gerrans (Orica-GreenEdge). After making the catch Haas took some deep breaths, recovered, and unleashed a strong sprint to roll Diego Ulissi (Lampre-Merida) on the line for second place.
Haas’ seventh place finish up Willunga Hill on stage five — just 17 seconds behind stage winner Richie Porte — also turned some heads.
Haas attributes his turn in form to a new coach and a new approach. Garmin-Sharp sports scientist and “Director of Personal Sports Coaching” Adrie van Dieman is now steering Haas’s ship and the first two ports of call have been a renewed mental focus and time in the gym.
“He does a lot of strength coaching so I actually spend a lot of time in the gym,” Haas told CyclingTips. “A lot of people were laughing at me when they heard the amount of training I was doing each week on the bike. It was only about 12 to 15 hours actually on the bike, and then I was doing about six to seven hours gym work for the week as well. It’s a very different way of doing it.”
But is Haas going to maintain his gym work year round?
“Absolutely. That’s Adrie’s training style. You actually don’t need to start the year with so many kilometres in the legs,” Haas explained. “Because we’re always doing a lot of kilometres, it’s not like we don’t have the ability to ride for a long time. And on the other hand there’s no point in getting all this strength just for the off-season, so I’ll keep the gym work up throughout the season.”
While he didn’t fully explain his training regime, Haas did say that his gym time was not about pushing heavy weights and bulking up. His work is done in a “very gentle way,” that is “more about coordination.”
Haas also revealed that last year’s Liège Bastogne Liège victor, Dan Martin, is another benefactor of Van Dieman’s approach.
“Adrie also coaches Dan Martin, David Millar and Tyler Farrar,” he said. “We’ve all adapted to this style of training and especially with Dan Martin it is working a treat. Dan Martin to me is one of my best friends but also my model athlete — he is just so focused and he knows how to keep his head switched on. I think one of the key things he is doing is gym work.”
The difference people have been asking?I think it's @webtrainer my wonderful coach. Great guy, great friend and awesome coach. Thanks Adrie
— Nathan Haas (@NathanPeterHaas) January 26, 2014
To ensure he remains committed, Haas has even turned his Spanish house into a makeshift gym.
“I’ve actually bought all my own gym equipment for my house in Spain and I’m obviously going to continue doing it because it just works,” he said.
Amstel Gold and the Giro
With Van Dieman aiming to spread Haas’ form over an entire season, Haas won’t necessarily be ‘peaking’ for one event; he will instead aim to hold a steady canter until the Giro.
“The whole plan is to change that focus away from short, intense peaks so that I’m not going to hit anything necessarily ‘hard,’” Haas said. “I’m just never letting it slide.
“I think he has probably identified that I can be super driven for four to five weeks then all of a sudden I just let myself go,” Haas added.
The fact that Haas was not fully focused on the Santos Tour Down Under makes his results as surprising (and satisfying) to himself as they were to the fans.
“I’m obviously super content with how Tour Down Under went, but it was a race where my goals weren’t … well, necessarily ‘focused’ from an individual perspective,” Haas said.
And although Haas isn’t going to follow a season of high peaks and low troughs, there are still a few races where he wants to be on top of his game.
“I really love the Ardennes style of racing and I’d really love to try and pull a personal result at Brabantse Pijl, and then throw all of that into Amstel Gold,” he said. “After that, doing well at the Giro this year will be a big thing for me.”
Knowing when to fight
Haas had a breakout year in 2011 while riding for Genesys (now Avanti Racing Team) winning a swag of domestic events, but most importantly the Jayco Herald Sun Tour and the Japan Cup. Haas now feels that he is back on that form that saw him earn a start in the WorldTour.
“I feel like I’ve got the legs again, maybe even better than I had in 2011,” he said. “I was just sort of lucky you know and had strength at the right time — my legs felt like I could do whatever I wanted.”
Hot day. Many biddons. Raced for Rohan. He past the banner on. @SteeleVH and Bauer just superb. Went deep. Won kick for 2nd. First WT points
— Nathan Haas (@NathanPeterHaas) January 23, 2014
Having spent the past two years learning the ropes, Haas is now adamant that time spent working for others also ‘worked’ for him.
“The WorldTour really makes you race differently,” he said. “The extra WorldTour experience really makes sure that you’re going to be in the right spot at the right moment in the race, as opposed to just hoping that you might be floating around the right area …”
And that’s a differential in skill that Haas believes many UniSA/national team riders were cognisant of at this year’s Tour Down Under, but not able to adapt to so early in their WorldTour careers.
“I was speaking to guys like Mark O’Brien and the other UniSA guys about how they were enjoying their first WorldTour race and he was saying there were some days where his legs were absolutely fantastic, but the unfortunate thing was he couldn’t put them to use because he couldn’t actually get the position,” explained Haas.
“It’s all about knowing when to fight and when to save the energy. The last two years of moving people up the peloton for the right time, learning just how to push through the peloton, as well as sitting in the wind [to shield teammates],” he continued. “You learn how to do so in an efficient way so you can still hang on over the climb afterwards. Learning how to do all of that for others meant I learned how to do it for myself.”
For 2014 Haas has WorldTour points on the board (he currently sits fifth in the WorldTour rankings) and has started his season with a bang. But will the good form roll on?
“It probably won’t,” Haas laughed. “But it’s a good start!”
About the author
Jonathan ‘Jono’ Lovelock has raced with a variety of Australian national teams, various continental teams and travelled the world a few times over, and is still just 24 years of age.
While trying to find constructive ways of procrastinating during his commerce degree Jono discovered the art of blogging and the rest is history. When not busy riding he was writing and what started as nothing more than a fleeting foray has snowballed into regular features with RIDE Cycling Review and full-time employment with Cyclingnews.com.
Now a free agent again Jono is busily preparing himself for a return to racing, but not without the odd story in between.
Disclosure statement: Jono Lovelock is a former teammate of Nathan Haas’, the two having ridden together at Genesys Wealth Advisers.