Jack Haig’s Diary: the perils of bike racing

by Jack Haig


After a great start to his European season with the Jayco-AIS WorldTour Academy team, Jack Haig has had a difficult few weeks. In his latest diary entry for CyclingTips he documents a challenging block of racing in Belgium and France and the frustrations of being a full-time cyclist.


I haven’t had the greatest luck since my last update. On my way to Belgium, to meet up with the guys that had done the Under 23 Tour of Flanders, I was feeling strong, motivated and excited to see what the next three weeks of racing would bring.

I had recovered well from the little bit of illness I had had during the Italian one-day races and I had done some really good/hard training on the bike. I had also been working really hard in the gym, I was making sure I was eating well and I had lost a little bit of weight. But now, as we drive the 12 hours plus back home to Gavirate after the Tour de Bretagne I feel sore, tired, frustrated, unmotivated and disappointed.

The racing

Some of the guys were away for a little longer and raced the U23 Tour of Flanders where my teammate Alex Edmondson won. I sat out Flanders to focus more on the races afterwards, which I was little disappointed about. But I fully understand why I didn’t race it; it’s a really hard race with a high chance of crashes and injuries on the cobbles, as well as the physical stress of racing over the cobbles. It would have been really nice to help Edmo and be part of the win, but I was hoping for some success of my own in the weeks afterwards.

The racing kicked off with a Nations Cup race in the Picardie region of France. It was 184km long and took 4 hours 30 minutes of racing, and it wasn’t too hard for most of the day. With a one-man breakaway up the road the bunch kinda just cruised around … at least until we got to the finishing circuit which we did twice.

The finishing circuit had two climbs of between 1-2km at around 5% — not really long enough or hard enough to spilt the bunch up too much. The team had brought Robert-Jon McCarthy in to guest ride for us and with the race likely to go a bunch sprint we were riding for him. Unfortunately he got caught up in a crash in the last couple kilometres and didn’t get a chance to sprint. I ended up being the top finisher for the team, just outside the top 20.

My next race was the U23 Liege-Bastogne-Liege, a race I had set out as one of my first goals in Europe. The course is a little different to the pro race — it’s just under 180km, but we still do a lot of the climbs the pros do towards the end. The finish is probably the biggest difference — our race climbed over the Cote de Saint-Nicolas with about 10km to go before racing through the streets of Liege and finishing on a velodrome very similar to the finish of Paris-Roubaix.

There was a break of around 8-10 riders away, which had 30 seconds on the peloton at the bottom of Cote de Saint-Nicolas. The two Alexs (Clements and Edmondson) did a superb job to put me right at the front of the peloton at the bottom of the climb. I attacked and rode as hard as I could all the way to the top, putting out an average of 511 watts for 1.1km at 9%.

There was a small group at the top and we’d pretty much caught all of the break. But somehow we went the wrong direction at the top of the climb and ended up randomly racing though the open streets of Liege, trying to find our way back to the actual race course! This pretty much ended my race.

By the time we rejoined the race there was only around 6-8km left to the finish. At the finish I was confused and rather disappointed after being in a position to get a good result then having it taken away by a silly mistake and the organisers not quite marking the course right. Oh well, I guess I will have to wait until I do it as a pro to get it right.

The last race during this block of racing was the seven-day Tour de Bretagne, which is in the notoriously wet, cold and windy Brittany region of north-west France. This was another race I wanted to do well in. Even though the racing doesn’t really suit me I was looking forward to the challenge of trying to do well there. It’s normally a race for the strong men that can survive in windy, wet and cold conditions and who can sprint at the end.

It didn’t get off to a good start when I got caught up in a big crash on the finishing circuit of stage 1 and needed a bike change. Unfortunately the team car hadn’t seen me. I was left stranded on the side of the road with a broken bike, wondering what do to.

Luckily there was another team there still helping one of their riders out so I asked nicely if I could borrow one of their bikes. After all of the waiting around and getting a bike I was quite a way behind the peloton; about 11 minutes by the end.

The tour didn’t get much better. On stage 5 I crashed again, taking a decent chunk out of my knuckles on my right hand, a wound that needed stitches. I also managed to take a fair bit of skin off my hip. I finished the stage but decided not to start the next day.

This ended a rather frustrating and disappointing racing block. After fracturing my elbow in the Cadel Evans Road Race I had worked super hard in training to get back to top form. I was feeling stronger then ever but unfortunately I was unable to see all the work pay off with some kind of result. I am going to take some time off now and let my wounds heal up, which means I’ll probably miss the next two races.

The waiting

I was away from my base in Gavirate, Italy for 21 days, but out of those 21 I only spent seven days racing (it would have been nine if I’d finished the Tour de Bretagne). This left 14 days which we spent sitting in a car traveling or in a hotel waiting for the next race day.

The training isn’t generally that long or hard during these racing blocks, because it is just about recovering from the races. So there’s a lot of time spent sitting around, lying on a bed watching TV series or movies and waiting for the next meal. This is probably the time that I hate the most, wasting days with all the waiting but I guess it’s just part of being a cyclist.

On race day or during a tour the time actually goes past quite quickly. This is a general schedule of how our days went in Bretagne:

  • Wake up as late as possible, around 9-9:15am
  • Have breakfast roughly three hours before the race starts, normally around 9:30am
  • Leave for the start. The drive is normally between 20-90 minutes
  • Arrive at least one hour before the start
  • Sit around talking trash, and about the stage, while getting changed into cycling kit
  • Sign on, go to the start line and then race for 4-5 hours
  • Get out of cycling kit at the finish and drive to the race hotel, which again takes around 20-90 minutes
  • Arrive at the hotel around 5-6pm
  • Have a shower, stretch and a 30-40-minute massage
  • Have dinner between 7-8pm
  • Sleep
  • Repeat until the tour is over

So that’s what’s happened in the last three weeks. I’ll write again soon about more everyday kind of stuff, like the apartment Rob Power and I share, spending time at the gym down at the European Training Centre and maybe some of my gym/stretching program.

Until next time, thanks for reading.

Jack

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