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NRS champion seeking Commonwealth Games and stagiaire berth
Jack Haig has recently announced that he will be remaining with the Huon-Genesys squad for the 2014 season as he seeks MTB selection to go to the Commonwealth Games. If all goes to plan, he will then set his sights on a stagiaire role with a WorldTour team.
"For next year I still want to qualify for the Commonwealth games, for MTB, I'm not finished with that yet," Haig told Cyclingnews.
Haig will be officially crowned the 2013 Subaru National Road Series (NRS) Champion once the final event of the series, the Grafton to Inverell is run and won on October 26. For the 20-year-old from Bendigo, he becomes the youngest ever name on the honour roll including Nathan Haas (Garmin Sharp), Will Clarke (Argos-Shimano), former Australian Road Champion Russel Van Hout and Giro d'Italia stage winner David McKenzie.
A bright future
Haig starting grabbing domestic headlines when he won the time trial and final mountain-top road stage in the Tour of Bright, a state-level event in Australia, in December last year. In his first ride on a time trial bike he set a new course record beating times set by riders such as Richie Porte (Sky), Michael Matthews (Orica-GreenEdge) and Haas at equivalent times in their respective careers, and he did it all without a disc wheel. Huon-Genesys team manager Andrew Christie-Johnston knew that one-off results can lead to spurious conclusions, but when Haig started troubling Porte and Nathan Earle as soon as the road turned upward following an invitation to a Huon-Genesys training camp, he knew he'd backed a winner.
Fast forward 10 months and Haig has added three NRS stage victories, two overall tour wins and another four general classification podiums to his palmares. All of this performed beside, and often in spite of bowing the leadership mantle to, fellow Huon-Genesys climbers Nathan Earle, who is heading to the WorldTour with Team Sky, and Jai Crawford who is heading to Pro-Continental aspirants Drapac Professional Cycling.
All of this, most impressively, has not been achieved in lieu of a drop-off in his promising MTB career. In 2012 Haig bagged a silver medal at the U23 XC National Championships and went on to represent Australia at the World Championships, and his fat-tyre future remains focused thanks to the leeway provided to him by Christie-Johnston.
With the team's blessing Haig won the U23 XC Nationals this year, took silver at the Oceania championships, and finished second overall at both of the National Series Rounds that he attended.
As well as seeking a ticket to Glasgow, Haig would also like to improve on his bronze medal at the 2013 Australian U23 Road Championships, and in turn earn a spot with the Uni-SA National Team to ride the Santos Tour Down Under. Both Drapac as a pro-conti team, and the Uni-SA National Team, are set to be invited to the Australian WorldTour event.
"For the first half of the season I'd like to race the U23 national champs on the road, and then I'd like to try and get a start with Uni-SA National Team for the Tour Down Under. Then the Herald Sun Tour with Genesys, then the MTB will start after that," said Haig. "For the MTB, there's the National Series around that time, then the national champs and then the first World Cup in South Africa and then the second World Cup is in Cairns.
"And I'm hoping from those races, as well as the Oceania Championships that I should be able to qualify for the Commonwealth Games from there. And then I'll go back to doing some road stuff."
Road or Rio?
The question then begs, for someone intent on national representation at Commonwealth Games, is there temptation to put road aspirations on hold a little while longer and aim for a MTB berth at the 2016 Olympic Games in Rio?
"I'll be ready to stop doing MTB very seriously after the Commonwealth Games I think. At this stage I probably won't even pursue any World Championships," explained Haig. "I'd prefer to do the Commonwealth Games in Glasgow then hopefully become stagiaire after that in the second half of the year with a protour team or even try to do some of the big U23 races like l'Avenir."
Professional cycling may be a dream, but it is also a job, and one that requires representation. Christie-Johnston is a firm believer that riders do not necessarily require professional representation until they actually reach the professional ranks, and this advice is something that Haig has taken on board.
"I don't have a manager at the moment, there are few people who want to manage me but no one's officially doing it," continued Haig. "There are lots of people chipping in and giving me ideas and a little bit of guidance here and there."
But lack of management does not imply a lack of mentoring, and with Australian coach Mark Fenner coaching a number of national champions down under, not to mention WorldTour riders such as Steele Von Hoff, the two make a good fit.
"A big mentor would be my coach, Mark Fenner," continued Haig. "He does a fair bit and I always bounce ideas off Huon-Genesys director Andrew Christie-Johnston, and there are lots of other people out there who give me their opinions and I just take it all in to try and make the right decision."
With such promise from just one season on the NRS circuit, and with many Australian pundits already making the comparisons to Cadel, it's no surprise for Haig to reveal that "Drapac were interested in me at one stage, so were the [Australian Institute of Sport's] World Tour Academy, they were pretty interested…"
But for Haig, the new challenges for 2014 will come from the groundwork of 2013, and staying with the tried and true formula of Huon-Genesys to the WorldTour –five riders and counting- is Haig's plan.
"I'm staying with Huon-Genesys because it will just be easier in terms of pressure to perform, I know what to expect having ridden with them this year, not to mention how supportive they are of my MTBing."