Jack Haig’s Diary: Goodbye U23s, hello WorldTour!

by Jack Haig


Jayco-AIS World Tour Academy rider Jack Haig has been writing diary posts for CyclingTips throughout the 2015 season, providing a valuable insight into the life of one of the country’s most promising young riders. In his last post for the season Jack reflects on his final races in the U23 ranks – including the World Championships – looks back at his season overall, and looks forward to starting his professional career next year with Orica-GreenEdge.


Well that’s it — my season is done and so is my last race as an under-23. Soon after my last post Harry Carpenter, Miles Scotson and I flew to Paris for Chrono Champenois, a time trial race that was being used for selection for the Worlds individual time trial.

When I first asked to do the race I just wanted to use it as a learning experience for next year, and also because we didn’t having any racing between Tour de l’Avenir and Worlds. Chrono Champenois seemed like a good thing to focus on between the two races.

But as we got closer and closer to the race I started to think about how cool it would be to actually start the TT at Worlds and Australia did have three spots for it. Unfortunately Cycling Australia and the selectors decided to only take one rider even though there were two other spots available.

Sure, I might not have been in contention for a medal, but I would like to think I could have run top 10 which isn’t such a bad result. I was a little disappointed with how the selections were made and that the selection process didn’t follow what was in the selection policy given to us at the start of the year. According to that policy, the TT team was supposed to be selected at the same time as the road race team, which was done just after Tour de l’Avenir.

Anyway, I got over that pretty quick; I was just a little disappointed with how it was done. I also thought it would have been good for my development to be able to get another long TT under my belt before going pro. With the World Tour Academy being a development team I thought they would have supported that.

In the end I finished ninth in Chrono Champenois while Miles was fourth and Harry was 13th.

We arrived in America quite early, about a week and a half before the road race. I thought being there so long would have been a bit boring, but it actually wasn’t too bad. The weather was good for riding and the hotel was quite nice.

I was also very surprised at how nice the riding was around Richmond and how friendly everyone was. I don’t think we got a single bit of road rage while out riding which is always nice. The whole town of Richmond seemed super happy to have the Worlds in their town, but that could have been helped by the fact the schools where given time off during our stay.

Another plus on getting there so early was we could check out some of the cool coffee shops in Richmond and spend time soaking up America and everything that is ‘big’ about it.

After some good training rides and then some rest our road race come around quite quickly. I didn’t really get nervous about the race; I just wanted to put in a good performance and regardless of the result be happy with how I raced my last race as an under-23.

I was quite worried that the race wouldn’t suit me after riding the climbs during training. Luckily, during the race, the climbs seemed a fair bit easier than in training and I actually felt quite comfortable on the cobbles during the race.

The circuit was really cool — being right in the centre of Richmond there were a lot of people out watching, making for a great atmosphere. I also think the course made for good racing and it was hard to pick favourites because it was so open as to who could win and how it could be raced.

It’s kinda interesting at Worlds how guys that are pro come back and race U23s, which means there are a lot of guys like Kevin Ledanois (who won) and Anthony Turgis (who came third) that I didn’t recognise. It can make it hard to identify favourites because we don’t really race them and its hard to gauge their form, but it also makes it hard to recognise them in the bunch.

I kinda knew most of the guys in the race and I picked Gianni Moscon, Owain Doull and Soren Kragh Andersen as possible favourites and winners and only Moscon was up there at the finish. I knew Turgis won the U23 Liege last year, but had no idea what he looked like in the peloton.

During the race it was all about positioning into the last couple kilometres of the circuit where the hills were. You could have had the best legs on the day, but if you weren’t in a good position you wouldn’t be part of the race. But if you had average legs and good positioning you would be able to make it though.

I didn’t have greatest legs on the day, but managed to be thereabouts most times going into the climbs and was towards the front on the final lap. I didn’t quite have the punch or the legs to go with the Italians as they chased down the Frenchman on the final climb to the finish, but I was fairly happy to finish where I did. A top 10 would have been nice, but 13th isn’t too bad.

Now it’s back to Italy for a week where I will pick up my Orica-GreenEdge training bike and try on some kit to get the sizes right for next year. I am also going to go and watch Il Lombardia which is close by, finishing near Lake Como. I might even get a chance to sit down with some of GreenEdge staff there and get a rough idea of my race calendar for next year, which will be exciting.

After that I will be off to Spain for a bit, which I have talked about in previous blogs.

I am not sure how much time I will have off the bike or what my build-up will look like after I start training again, but I want to explore Girona’s mountain biking and get to know some of the roads a bit better before I fly back to Australia in the middle of November. At that point I’ll start my proper build-up towards the Australian summer of racing.

Overall I think my season has gone well. I have had a few setbacks with my crash and fractured elbow at Cadel’s Race and a big crash in Tour of Bretagne in France. I think having those setbacks probably wasn’t a bad thing and they might have even helped my development. It’s very likely those kind of things will happen as a pro and I will need to overcome them.

I would have liked to win something this year but I have definitely learnt more about myself and how my body reacts to different training, loading and racing. I think I am very lucky joining a team like GreenEdge. I had the chance to do a training camp with them last year and got to know a lot of the riders and staff, so it doesn’t really feel like it’s going to be completely new and as daunting as it could have been.

I am also taking confidence from all the training and racing this year and I know I am well prepared and a half-decent cyclist. I am more excited about getting it underway than I am feeling like I’m jumping into the deep end.

There were definitely points during the season where cycling and everything that goes along with trying to be a professional seemed very hard. Living in Europe in the little bubble of riders and staff in Gavirate can sometimes get a bit much. Some of the time it feels like you don’t have much independence and that you’re effectively on call with some of the staff.

But don’t get me wrong — the program is great. When it gets hard I think how many people would give their left arm to be in the position I am in: being able to do something I love as my ‘job’.

I have had some great times here and made some great friends with some of the staff and riders. We also have a pretty easy life here — we don’t have to pay rent or organise things like internet and bills. We kinda just get to hang out together, sip cappuccinos talk smack and have fun. I guess next year I will be able to do that as well, but it’s a pretty unique environment we live in here.

It’s been pretty amazing reflecting on my years as an under-23 and all the things I have done, and thinking about where I am headed next year.

I feel like I have only been in cycling a fairly short time. I wasn’t really someone that grew up as a young kid always wanting to be a cyclist or following cycling. So to be able to see and do everything I’ve done so far is pretty amazing.

I’ve come from being a very raw young mountain biker to a professional road cyclist for what I think is one of the best WorldTour teams in four short years. Obviously I have had a lot of help along the way and to everyone that’s helped me I have to say a massive thank you.

To Matt Wallace who was my first coach, Dean and Gen Clark at TORQ Nutrition who gave me my first ride on the TORQ mountain bike team, Mark Fenner who took over my coaching and became a great friend and mentor, and Andrew Christie-Johnston and Steve Price at the Avanti Cycling Team.

Who knows where I would be now if I didn’t go to the Avanti training camp at the end of 2012 and get a spot on the team for the 2013 season. It was there that I did my first National Road Series season and got the chance to ride for the overall.

Thanks to all the people involved in Cycling Australia and the World Tour Academy, and to Paolo Menaspa who now looks after my training. Thanks too to all the teammates I have had along the way. Without their knowledge, experience and help I wouldn’t be starting next year as a professional. There are many many other people that should get a mention, but the list would be too long. So thanks everyone.

And, of course, thanks to you for reading. Let me know if you would like me to keep this going through next year. And thanks to the CyclingTips guys for letting me write this diary. Hopefully I have shared some enjoyable reading with you guys.

Cheers,

Jack

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