Jack Haig’s Diary: ‘The WorldTour is no joke’

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The Volta a Catalunya is known as one of the hardest stage races in the world and as Jack Haig (Orica-GreenEdge) found out recently, that reputation is well deserved. In his latest diary entry for CyclingTips, Jack writes about Catalunya — his first WorldTour stage race in Europe — his call up to the Tour of Flanders and how to prepare for a snow-affected race like Liege-Bastogne-Liege.

Written over the course of several weeks, this post was completed just before the Tour de Romandie, a race Jack has just now completed. We’ll update this post with Jack’s thoughts from Romandie once he sends them through.


After the Volta a Catalunya

Wow. The WorldTour is no joke, that’s for sure. I’m writing this in a very fatigued state after finishing what was possibly the hardest week of racing I have done so far. I had heard from some of the guys I bumped into while training around Girona that the Volta a Catalunya was going to be a hard race, but holy moly did I suffer during that week.

After Strade Bianche I was settling into my training routine and managed to do a couple good training sessions, but I couldn’t help feeling like I was missing something in terms of performance. The efforts were doable, but they felt harder then they should have. I felt a bit empty and like I was lacking the ability to go deep. I tried not to let it get to me and just kept going with my training.

Given most of the stages of the Volta a Catalunya were really close to my base in Girona the team arranged for me to do some recon of stage 3 and 4, the two really hilly stages. Luckily when we were doing the recon we had amazing weather and overall it was two solid days of training.

I really enjoyed getting out of Girona and climbing some proper alpine climbs. A lot of the climbs still had snow at the top and the ski lifts were still running. It was bit surreal climbing these mountain passes and looking over to see people skiing and catching the chairlifts.

I may have pushed the training a bit because I got a little sick on the Monday and Tuesday the week before the race. I was meant to go to Italy to do some aero testing with the team for my time trial position, but with such a hard race on the horizon and me being under the weather I decided not to push my luck and do all the travel required to do the testing.

I think it was a wise decision as I was feeling much better by Thursday. All the work had been done so I was pretty much just resting and tapering in the lead up to the race.

I’m not going to lie — I was feeling quite nervous before Catalunya. I had also put a decent amount of pressure on myself — I wanted to impress and show my climbing ability. I soon learnt though that the WorldTour is fast — really fast — and the level of riders in the race probably didn’t help.

I was very happy to finish the race and to be in the car for the drive back to Girona. The team seemed to be happy with how I was riding, even though I was a personally a little disappointed. I did have a couple good stages during the middle of the race where I felt good and was able to help out quite a bit.

The Cobbled Classics

I wrote that section above about two weeks ago while sitting in a cafe, drinking coffee, trying to keep myself awake after Catalunya. I thought I would finish the post over the next couple days but I got caught up trying to find a new apartment, going to and from the real restate agent, checking different apartments and packing up my old place. I also got the call-up to start the Tour of Flanders …

Matt Hayman was meant to do the race I think, but with his broken arm the team decided it would be best for him to race a one-day race in Spain. As we now know he went on to win Paris-Roubaix the following week.

I felt very out of my comfort zone over in Belgium with all the big Classics guys, but I was also very excited to take part in one of the biggest one-day races in our sport.

The team was very good and knew I was out of my depth so they didn’t put any pressure on me. My goal was to get in the early break for the experience but after about 40km of racing and trying to jump with moves I was buggered and the break went around 80km in.

After that I did my best to position the guys at the front of the peloton before some of the sectors. It wasn’t long before I was struggling to hold onto the peloton over some of bumpy cobbled climbs and the fast, twisty roads.

All in all in was a fun race and it was cool to hang out with a different bunch of guys for a bit. I was also happy to be coming home in one piece.

The day after Flanders was spent shuttling clothes, bags and other household goods to the new apartment. It wasn’t too bad – the new apartment was quite close to my old one and with the help of some friends it happened pretty quickly. It was then about setting up the WiFi and buying a couple extra things to help make it feel like “home”. So far I’m super happy with the apartment and love being in the new location.

Liege-Bastogne-Liege

Finally, I thought I’d better write something about Liege-Bastogne-Liege given how crazy the weather was.

It’s kinda fun the day before a race like that, when you know bad weather’s on the way. The topic around the table at meals is about what type of clothes we’re going to wear during the race to stay warm. The forecast was for it to be super cold and snowing and race day lived up to the forecast with a course change early in the race because of snow.

Here’s what I was wearing during the race:

  • Cycling cap
  • Ear warmers
  • Neck warmer
  • Short sleeve undershirt
  • Long sleeve undershirt
  • Jersey
  • Arm warmers
  • Vest
  • Short sleeve rain jacket
  • Long sleeve rain jacket
  • Thermal knicks
  • Leg warmers
  • Winter booties
  • Neoprene gloves

I was wearing all of those items but still got super-cold twice during the race. The second time was just before the descent into the La Redoute climb and as soon as we started climbing I couldn’t get my legs to work.

All in all though, I did enjoy myself during the race — when I wasn’t feeding — and Alba [Michael Albasini] rode super strong and managed to get second, which was impressive.

Speaking of terrible weather, I’m now on the bus getting ready for the prologue at the Tour de Romandie and its snowing again …

Jack

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