Chad Haga at the Vuelta a España.

Chad Haga is headed (back) to Rally

After eight years with DSM, Chad Haga has signed with Rally.

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After eight years of racing at the WorldTour level with various iterations of the squad now called DSM, Chad Haga is returning to the team that he left in 2013. Rally, which was then a UCI Continental squad known as Optum-Kelly Benefit Strategies and has since moved up to the second division, has signed Haga on a one-year deal.

Speaking to CyclingTips this week, Haga said that he is looking forward to returning to the organization that saw him get his first taste of pro bike racing.

“When I left the team eight years ago, we left on great terms. I had an awesome time in the team and I learned a lot,” Haga said. “They wanted what was best for me as well. I can distinctly remember a conversation in the Red Roof Inn in Silver Dollar City at the Tour of the Gila where Jonas [Carney, team manager] and Mike Creed were talking to me, saying, you can stay and race in Europe and make more money here than you’re going to make the next couple of years but you need to go to Europe. To have my boss encouraging me to make the next step and to leave his team just showed how positive that environment was.”

Haga, 33, joined the then-Giant-Shimano team as a youngster but he leaves a veteran. He heads back to Rally with a wealth of experience and a Grand Tour stage win on his career palmares; Haga took a time trial stage win at the 2019 Giro d’Italia.

As ever, Haga’s goal will be to “win some races, help teammates win races” in his new team, even if that team tends to take a different approach from the one he is used to at DSM.

“I really enjoyed watching them race this year,” Haga said of Rally. “The style of racing they do, and I want to do that, and hopefully have some success doing it as well. I just want to go out there and have fun racing, and hopefully the results will follow.”

Haga’s transfer marks the end of an eight-year stint at DSM, and it also happens to be coming at a time when the squad is seeing more than one high profile departure. Tiesj Benoot is rumored to be joining the very long list of big names leaving the team early, while youngster Ilan Van Wilder is reportedly taking the team to court as he also wishes to depart. Haga, however, is on the move at the end of his contract. He told CyclingTips that he and DSM are splitting up “on good terms.”

“We’re mutually happy to call it good on our association. I think it ran its course,” he said. “I was at the point in my career where I was looking for something different and I think they also sensed that. I just needed a change of pace.”

Over the course of his time at DSM, Haga developed from an up-and-comer to an establish pro, starting 12 Grand Tours – including two Tours de France – for the team. Along the way, he learned some valuable lessons that he will take with him as he makes his return to the Rally organization.

“The biggest lessons are … you’ve got to trust the process, do the work, focus on the things you can control, and it will eventually come together. You’ll get to where you need to get,” he said.

“It’s too hard of a job if you’re not having fun, and there’s a lot of ways it can stop being fun. I’m just kind of rambling there but it’s sort of the whole life picture as well. Your life needs to be balanced and not get too wrapped up in it because it can suck the life out of you if you let it.”

Haga is confident that his change of scenery – to a new-old environment where he knows he can thrive – will help keep him enjoying life in the pro peloton.

“I always thought that later on in my career, it would be a lot of fun to come back to the team,” he said. “In that vision, I expected that there would be more racing in America and that I would want to stay more in America, but I think it’s really cool that Rally has developed and is now basically a full-time European team. Europe is where I enjoy racing the most anyway. I love that it’s coming together.”

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