Nathan Haas says that he learned more this season riding alongside Edvald Boasson Hagen at Dimension Data than he has done in any of his previous seasons as a pro. Haas believes that working with the Norwegian, who he says has more physical similarities to him compared to his previous teammates, has helped push him on this year despite his season being disrupted by injury.
Haas moved to Dimension Data at the end of last season after four seasons with the Garmin squad.
"At Garmin, I was left-hand man for Dan Martin for four years there, and I learned an awful lot about how to race in the style that suits him and also [Ryder] Hesjedal," Haas explained to Cyclingnews. "To race with riders who are a lot more like me, from a physical standpoint, in Eddy, someone who can suffer all day and then do a good sprint… I've learned more from him this year, in terms of my own riding, than most of the other years put together."
Haas' start in Dimension Data colours got off to a solid start on his home turf of Australia before he travelled out to the Middle East for the Tour of Oman where he helped Boasson Hagen to two stage wins. Things went off the rails a bit when he misjudged a corner during an attack on stage 4 of Paris-Nice, which saw him end up tumbling over his handlebars into a field. The resulting nerve damage upset the rest of his spring campaign. The second half of the season went much better with a stage win at the Vuelta a Burgos and two top-10 finishes at the one-day WorldTour races in Quebec and Montreal; it's those results that he prefers to look back on when talking about his 2016 season.
"I think that focusing on the good points is actually better because the more we talk about things that went wrong, the more you give power to it, and that can give you a bad impression on how it went. I'm really pumped with how it went," he said. "I was thinking it was going great and then all of a sudden I rode off a cliff when I was attacking in Paris-Nice. Unfortunately, that kind of messed up the rest of my programme."
Haas is, of course, hoping for a much smoother route through the 2017 season, and has pointed to the Australian summer, Milan-San Remo and the Ardennes as high points of his season but he is keen not to put too much focus on just a few days in the calendar.
"I'm actually really excited about short tours and one-day races. I'm not a huge fan of Grand Tours. he main reason is that while there's a lot of opportunity in Grand Tours, you're also locked in for 21 days. If the form wasn't quite right or you've had a crash then you can have a pretty tough time," said Haas. "I don't know my race programme too well but your favourite races of the year don't really change. Those are, starting in Australia and working towards races like Milan-San Remo and Amstel Gold. After that, you can assess things.
"I just want to take 2017 with a feeling of less emphasis on any particular goal but not forgetting what each race means to me."
The 2017 season is the last one on Haas' contract with Dimension Data, and he's keen to put pen to paper with the South African squad once again, telling Cyclingnews that he feels at home with them.
"I think, I do my best when I get to be myself. The nicest thing about this team is that I can speak open and candidly to everyone involved on a management level," said Haas. "I haven't looked back; for me it feels like I've come home. I'm coming up to a contract year, and I would be very happy to stay here."