After having just missed the podium on Sunday with fourth place in the Amstel Gold Race, Dimension Data's Nathan Haas is eager to roll the dice again Wednesday during the second instalment of the 2017 Ardennes Classics at la Flèche Wallonne.
Haas scored his best-ever Classics result in Amstel, making the late selection with eventual winner Philippe Gilbert (Quick-Step Floors), Michael Kwiatkowski (Team Sky) and four others before Gilbert and Kwiatkowski went clear in the closing kilometres and battled for the win. Haas finished behind Orica-Scott's Michael Albasini a handful of seconds later.
On Wednesday, the race will come down to the final climb up the infamous Mur de Huy, the final 1.3km ascent that comes after nearly 200km of racing. Riders reach the Mur de Huy for the first time after 145km, then start the closing circuit that also features the Côte d’Ereffe, which averages 5 percent over 2.1km, and the Côte de Cherave, which averages 8.1 percent over 1.3km. But they are just hors d'oeuvres for the final time up the Mur de Huy, which for the first 900 meters averages nearly 12 per cent and reaches over 20 per cent in the steep corners toward the top.
"To me, Flèche Wallonne is easily the most dangerous one of the Ardennes races," Haas said. "There is really only one moment in this race that counts and that’s the final 1.3km. Positioning is paramount, which also makes for a very tactical race. It’s a bit like an ice sculpture with Mur de Huy being that last pick of the ice where you either make something really beautiful at the end or the whole thing collapses. It’s really an amazing race.
"We hope to play the card of the powerful underdog," Haas said. "We know this is a very hard race, but we have a few extra climbers coming in now and I don’t think we are a team that should be dismissed."
Dimension Data for 2017 la Fleche Wallonne: Igor Anton, Merhawi Kudus, Serge Pauwels, Nathan Haas, Jacques Janse van Rensburg, Jaco Ventur, Ben O'Connor, Johann Van Zyl