Jack Haig’s Diary: Altitude in Andorra and a podium in Slovenia
In his latest diary post for CyclingTips, Orica-GreenEdge neo-pro Jack Haig takes us through a tough Criterium du Dauphine, his 17-day visit to Andorra for an altitude training camp, and his second place overall at the Tour de Slovenia.
Right. It’s about time for an other update. I’ve been writing these posts on the team bus as we drive to and from stages of races like the Criterium du Dauphine and Tour de Slovenia. Its something I haven’t really mentioned on here, but having the bus for transfers is amazing and probably one of the coolest things about moving up to the WorldTour.
In amateur racing normally everyone’s crammed into a small van and it’s uncomfortable, but with the team buses it’s awesome. Big comfortable seats, a fridge with cold drinks and food, coffee machine, multiple TVs, a toilet and showers. All these things make traveling in the bus really nice.
A quick break then to altitude
After Tour de Romandie I took six days completely off the bike just to have bit of a rest. During that time I went to Barcelona a couple times, wandered around the city and enjoyed the beach and some nice food. There was also a coffee festival on at one point, which was pretty cool.
I had a couple days of riding in Girona before heading up to Pas de la Casa, a town in Andorra, which is at about 2,100m above sea level — perfect for a 17-day altitude training camp.
I had never been to Andorra but have always thought about trying to get residency there. Everyone says it’s pretty good for training and it solves the issue of trying to get a visa.
It’s actually quite hard for people from Australia and America to get a visa to come and stay in Europe for extended periods of time. Some people have different way of getting around it, like having grandparents from Europe or the UK and managing to apply for a European passport. Some people just roll the dice and actually don’t have anything, but this can be quite risky.
From what I’ve heard it’s pretty easy to get residency in Andorra and you can apply for it while in Europe, rather than having to apply for a visa back in Australia.
On the training, it’s quite good up there as long as you like climbing and lots of it. There is hardly a flat section of road. In fact, they shut down a tunnel you’re normally not allowed to ride in for the Andorra TT championships, just so they could use a flattish bit of road. The weather can be a bit average at the start and end of a ride, but in the middle it’s not too bad. Plus you get the benefits of living at altitude.
Orica-GreenEdge put on the camp and organised a coach and a couple of staff members to help us out up there. We had maybe five or six riders up there staying in a nice little hotel. Everyone more or less did the same training rides but with slightly different efforts when we got to the climbs.
I ended up with a solid 17 days of training up there, building a really good foundation to start the second block of my season.
The Dauphine and Slovenia
The Criterium du Dauphine went pretty well. It started with a super-steep just-under-4km uphill prologue. It’s crazy how fast some of the guys went up there. Everyone was in super form wanting to test the legs before the Tour de France. It also blew me away how lean some of the top GC guys were.
You could tell that the Tour was just around the corner. Pretty much everyone had been at training camp at altitude before the Dauphine, putting in lots of work, losing a bit of weight and using the Dauphine as some intensity to check where they were at before the final touches are put on after the race.
We actually had a couple easy days during the race, which was nice. But when it was hard, boy was it hard.
I can really notice that I’m making a some progression throughout the season. From where I started in Catalunya to now I feel way more comfortable and I’m not getting as tired as the race goes on. Each race I’ve learnt a little more, getting a little strong and smarter. All those little things are adding up to making the race feel better.
After the Dauphine finished I only had a couple days to relax and recovery before I was off again to the Tour de Slovenia. Slovenia is a UCI 2.1 race meaning there were some small teams there and the depth of the field wasn’t as strong. And it was quite noticeable having come from a race like the Dauphine where most of the top guys in the world are there and they are close to peak form.
The team gave me an opportunity to race for myself in Slovenia to see how I would go in the overall GC, which was pretty cool.
The first stage was about 180km long, a little lumpy all day with two laps of a 5km finish circuit. There was a 1km climb at 10% about 3km before the finish and the last time up the climb I attacked and had one other guy with me until Diego Ulissi and my teammate Jens Keukeleire joined us.
I rode the group as hard as I could to the finish knowing Jens had a really good chance of winning, which he did.
Stage 2 was 220km with three large climbs and finished on top of the last climb. I finished second behind Rein Taaramae from Katusha. This result slotted me into the points jersey and second on GC.
Stage 3 was a 16km ITT with 10km super flat and then the last 6km up quite a steep hill. I ended up making a choice to swap from my TT bike at the bottom of the climb to my road bike. I thought the lightness of my road bike outweighed the speed I would gain on the climb on the flatter sections with my TT bike. I finished fifth and held onto second on GC and the points jersey.
The last day was a bit hectic with a scary finish circuit in the pissing rain, but the team looked after me really well and I finished safely in the bunch.
It was great to race a race again instead of feeling like I was just getting belted everyday and getting dropped. The last two weeks with Dauphine and Slovenia have really helped me feel that, given some more time to develop and learn, I can really be quite good in some of the hard races.
Here are some stats about my last two weeks of racing the Dauphine and then Slovenia:
- 14 days
- 54:28 hours of riding
- 2,968 TSS
- 27,890 meters climbed
The team has been really happy with my performance so far and generally more pleased than I have been with my progression. I’m generally a really hungry person, always wanting more, but the team has been really good at reminding me that I’m a neo pro and it takes time to develop.
It’s given me a lot of conference going forward into the rest of the season. My next race will be the Tour of Poland and after that I will find out what the rest of the year has in store.
For now though I’m just relaxing for a couple of days before heading back to Andorra for another 14 days to train for Poland and the rest of the season.
Thanks for reading!