Australia's National Road Series leader Nathan Haas (Genesys Wealth Advisers) heads into next week's demanding Tour of Tasmania with a dilemma on his hands – race to win or make an early exit in order to ensure proper preparation and recovery for the Jayco Herald Sun Tour which starts just three days after the island race's conclusion.
Haas will also be riding the Launceston to New Norfolk Classic on Sunday October 2 although in a support role for teammates Steele Von off and Pat Shaw, who won the race last year.
Weighing heavily on the Canberra 22-year-old's mind is the sentimental value the Tour of Tasmania holds.
"This is by far the most important race to me in the season," Haas, bound for Italy in 2012, told Cyclingnews. "It was the first road tour that I ever did [in 2009] and I won the king of the mountains classification and I jokingly said to the team that I was with that ‘I'm coming back to win this race one year'. I'm not trying to sound cocky at all but I like setting goals for myself."
Haas' results in 2010 were none too shabby either, winning the Tour's toughest stage from Ulverstone to Penguin.
"I think this is probably my last real chance to win the Tour with the team behind me so I'm going down with 100 per cent commitment to winning this Tour," he continued. "If I come second that's okay but the only result that I can walk away with completely satisfied with is by winning. I really, really want to do well."
It's a situation that Genesys team manager Andrew Christie-Johnson is also aware of, warning the talented rider not to go "too deep" in the early stages, telling Cyclingnews frankly that "The Tour of Tasmania is important, but it's not as important as the Jayco Herald Sun Tour."
Knowing when to go
The Tour of Tasmania's opening stage is a gruelling 18.1 kilometre team time trial from Hobart's iconic Cascade Brewery to the summit of Mount Wellington where Genesys are tipped to battle with the Russian national team for top honours.
For Haas, the pressure begins from the start line with the race against the clock having the potential to put a serious dint in his aspirations for the Tour.
"Over a climb that takes more than 50 minutes there's going to be quite dramatic time gaps so you're going to have four riders potentially 30 seconds to a minute in front of the next four," he explained. "Whoever wins that stage has a very good shot of actually winning the tour. You don't have to ride negatively when you have four people in the lead, you can actually keep throwing one of those people into every attack."
The race is considered home turf for the Tasmanian-based Genesys team with a line up of Haas, Von Hoff, Shaw, Anthony Giacoppo, Jason Rigg, Thomas Robinson, Kane Walker, Calvin Watson with local riders Campbell Flakemore and Nathan Earle. The ‘orange train' has organised several reconnaissance missions over the parcours, including the opening stage testing out different tactics and combinations between riders to ensure the fastest possible passage to the often snow-capped peak.
Not that the race through the apple isle gets any easier with stages two and three scheduled as a double header on October 5, a trend which continues through until the penultimate stage from Burnie on West Mooreville October 8.
According to Haas, it's Wednesday's double of 61.4 kilometres from New Norfolk to Hamilton followed by Hamilton to Bronte Park over 78.6 kilometres, which could cause just as many headaches.
"I've ridden them both and they're such demanding [stages] - they're actually horrible," he said. "In all honesty, I'm going into those stages very tentative of going too deep at any time because I know how problematic it will be. If you go out and blitz stage two, you have the potential of losing 10 minutes in the next stage so it's going to be the guys who are more consistent rather than those who are occasionally exceptional [who win the Tour]."
And that other matter...
When it comes to the NRS, Haas holds a 150-point lead over Von Hoff and a 316-point lead over 2010 champion Shaw. With four events remaining on the NRS calendar following the Tour of Tasmania, Haas is philosophical when it comes to maintaining his lead until final event, Shipwreck Coast on October 30.
"The NRS lead is one of those things that, it would be lovely if it happens but looking at the scores now, no matter what it will be someone from our team," he explained. "I'm not going to feel disappointed at all if Steele takes it from me – we're very good friends. Between the both of us, every single one of our victories has come through helping each other."
In fact, with Christie-Johnson's warning comes some indication of Haas' priorities, given the Jayco Herald Sun Tour will be a real test given there will be several ProTour teams contesting the Victorian event.
Haas has a "handshake agreement" an Italian amateur outfit but the arrangement is for rides only and is not a paid contract, with Haas keen to point out he's still very much "on the market," the Jayco Herald Sun Tour might just be the place to impress.