Jack Haig’s Diary: The Tour de l’Avenir and prepping for Worlds

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Jack Haig’s time with the Jayco-AIS WorldTour Academy Team is coming to a close and before too long he’ll be racing in Orica-GreenEdge colours. In his latest diary post for CyclingTips, Jack reflects on his impressive second overall at the Tour de l’Avenir and looks forward to the World Championships in Richmond where he’s aiming to take part in both the U23 road race and individual time trial.

Wow — it’s amazing how quickly time flies. The season is rapidly coming to a close, which I am kinda glad about. In the week and a bit before the Tour de l’Avenir I was feeling pretty over cycling — my body just felt tired and I was already thinking ahead to next year.

But now that the Tour is done, I am super-pleased with the result and I am glad I pushed through and managed to do what I did. I have also come to the realisation that it was my last U23 race in Europe and I only have one more race left ever as an under-23. It’s a scary thought.

It’s kinda hard when it gets to this point in the season, not that I have a lot of experience with this point of the season, yet. But it seems to be more of a mental battle than a question of trying to find fitness and build form.

As long as you have managed to work hard throughout the season and train hard, you have a massive build-up of training behind you. As long as you can keep your head screwed on the form should be somewhat there.

I probably went into l’Avenir a little heavier than what I was when racing at Aosta and Alsace. I had mentally cracked a bit after being on the ‘regime’ for so long — it was tough seeing some of the other guys around me heading into Varese, having nice dinners and drinks, socialising and having a good time. Meanwhile, I was trying to focus on eating well, going to bed early and all the other stuff involved in the ‘regime’, all to try and be my best.

But these things happen. I just tried to go into the race knowing that I had put a lot of work in and the form was there. I knew if I stayed mentally focused and just took the race one day at a time, I should be able to come away with something. I was super stoked to come away with two top-five stage finishes and second on GC.

Before the Tour started a couple of us riders, along with two staff members, did four days of recon, which was good but didn’t really help my mental state. It’s just a lot of sitting around, driving, doing short rides of sections of the stages and lots of boredom, killing time in hotel rooms. But it was definitely worth spending the time doing it once we got to those stages in the race.

As I said, I just took the race one step at a time because there was massive amount of talent in the race this year, including a couple of WorldTour and Pro Continental riders. One of them was Marc Soler, who rides for Movistar — he ended up winning the Tour. The other was Sebastian Henao who rides for Sky. It was kinda weird and daunting having them in the race.

Sebastian Henao is a second-year pro and in 2014 he rode the Giro d’Italia as a neo pro and had two top-10 stage finishes and was 22nd on GC. He was the massive favourite to win the Tour de l’Avenir.

It was strange that the UCI changed the rules because the Tour de l’Avenir is meant to be a race to discover up-and-coming cyclists and, I guess, help them get pro contracts. To have guys that race for WorldTour and Pro Continental teams there was strange but it didn’t bother me that much — they were the rules so there wasn’t much point getting too worked up about it.

| Related: Should the Tour de l’Avenir be open to professional riders?

I think because of the depth of the field this year the race was much harder than last year. I heard the same thing from quite a lot of riders who had done the race last year. It was also a lot different for me as well as the Australian team wasn’t anywhere near as strong as last year. A lot of this was down to all the bad luck we had throughout the season with crashes and riders getting sick.

By the end of the tour the team was only Nick Schultz and me. Knowing that the team couldn’t support me as well as they had done with others and myself in the past, I had to be very smart with how I used my energy. Every day I knew I had to not lose time and to try and save energy where I could, knowing that the last stage could possibly decide the GC.

I think I played my cards well throughout the tour. On the last day I was able to take second on the stage and move up to second overall. Obviously it wouldn’t have been possible without the help of all the riders and support staff that were there to help out during the week. I am very thankful for their help — every little bit helped towards me being able to achieve what I did.

Now that I am back in Gavirate and we don’t have any more road races, I have decided to try and focus all of my attention on trying to qualify for the time trial at the World Championships. Australia has the possibility of taking three riders for the U23 ITT, but it looks like they will only take one rider. But, depending on how Harry Carpenter, Miles Scotson and myself go at the Chrono Champenois TT race in France on Sunday, they might consider taking another rider.

At Worlds this year the road race doesn’t really suit me that well and I have always wanted to try and improve my time trailing. So after talking with my coach we decided to do a build up for the TT. This means lots of time riding my TT bike and doing some evil, painful ergo sessions. If I don’t get the result I would like at Chrono Champenois (top five) and don’t get selected for Worlds I think the process of preparing for the TT will all help with my development as a rider.

I’ve been putting all my training for the TT on Strava if you’re interested in how I am trying to prepare for it.

A photo posted by Jack Haig (@jack_haig) on

Gavirate is kinda becoming a ghost town at the moment. There are no more Australian rowers training at the European Training Centre and with all the injuries this year its only Harry, Miles and myself that are left in the team that can actually ride. Everyone else has either gone back to Australia or is on holidays somewhere in Europe.

With my focus being on time trials, my training volume has been cut back and I’ve got lots of time to kill. This is mostly spent at the cafe sipping cappuccinos and, now that the hilly tours are done, enjoying the odd cookie or sneaky treat as well.

As the end of the season gets closer, I am getting more and more excited about starting next year with Orica-GreenEdge. I am staying in Europe until November 8 and soon after we fly back from Worlds in Richmond, USA I am planning on flying to Girona. My plan is to try and set up an apartment, or at least get some of my stuff from Italy to Spain before going on a holiday for a week or two.

I am unsure where I’ll go on holidays yet. Maybe along the northern coast of Spain then down to Morocco. The coastline and the waves are probably the thing I miss most about Australia so wherever I go it will have to include some of that.

Anyway, thanks for taking the time to read!



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