Jack Haig (Avanti) had set his sights on winning a mountain bike medal at the Commonwealth Games in Glasgow later this year. However, having won the best young rider jersey at first the Tour Down Under in January which he followed up with another white jersey at the Jayco Herald Sun Tour, Haig is adjusting to the fact that his future in cycling is on the road.
A last minute cancellation of the Herald Sun Tour's final stage up Arthurs Seat dashed the 20-year-old's chances of going for the stage win along with the opportunity to improve upon his third place overall.
"Winning the race would definitely have been nice but more of chance just to test myself against some of the best guys here. Simon Clarke, who has won the king of the mountains jersey at the Vuelta [a España] and was seventh at the world championships last year, is a pretty accomplished bike rider and [I would have liked] to have the opportunity to showdown with him up the climb," Haig explained.
Haig was keen to show that his performance at the Tour Down Under wasn't a one-off and that he can back up his performances. "A lot of teams spoke to me after the Tour Down Under and the main thing I worried about was not me being able to back up and really just being a one-off thing at TDU and it maybe being a bit of luck and I'm really pleased that I've come here the real deal.
"I want to make it to the WorldTour, I feel like I'm ready to make that jump and that showed on that stage that we got away, it was really tough and I was able to make that decisive move at the end. I think that as long as I can keep backing up throughout the year then feel like I can and it would be good step for next year."
Haig has been in discussions with several teams regarding a 2015 contract and he told Cyclingnews just where he'd like to end up next year.
"Outside of people contacting me, I'd always say the top three teams that I'd like to go to are probably Sky, BMC, Omega Pharma-Quick Step and maybe Orica-GreenEdge in there as well. I'd probably put my first pick as Sky, having Richie [Porte] and Nathan [Earle] there would be great. Nathan and I are really great friends and I'd love to go and race with him some more."
The confidence from riding the Tour Down Under gave Haig the feeling that he is ready for the step up to WorldTour level.
"I'm probably not going to try to do too much NRS racing, talking again to the teams at TDU, they were really keen for me to get more European racing under my belt. I see the natural progression for me is to go overseas where the WorldTour teams are."
Balancing MTB ambitions with road racing success
The mountain bike is Haig's first two-wheeled love and he has had to come to terms with the fact that his impressive rides on the road bike have meant that getting out on the mountain bike is becoming too complicated.
"I didn't really give myself enough credit at how I would go on the road and I'm starting to enjoy road cycling more and more. TDU sort of confirmed to me, that's what I want to do. Before I was still unsure and I was like 'maybe I'll try to do a full year on the MTB' so now it's getting closer and closer to me pulling the pin on doing Commonwealth Games as well as getting road cycling in."
Haig is the latest in a line of Australians who started on the mountain bike but in order to make racing their career, have had to make the switch to the road such as Cadel Evans and Nathan Haas.
"Beforehand, I wasn't sure about road cycling but I've come around a lot more. Don't get me wrong, I still love mountain biking and I'd like to say that I'll always own a mountain bike, always still do a couple of races but there is just no support there.
"Dean [Clark] does an amazing job at the Torq team to develop young Australians but to make that jump on the mountain bike is so much harder than doing it on the road because there are teams like Avanti who give you that step. Opportunities like Tour Down Under, Herald Sun Tour as an UCI race let you put your name out there and I really want to make a job out of it. I want this to be my career."
Racing and riding his bike is what Haig wants to spend his time doing and as he explained, at the end of the day, if it has two-wheels then he's happy.
"I don't want to have to go out and work a nine-to-five job, I love riding my bike and if that means I have to ride on the road which I'm enjoying more and more, so be it."
When racing in Australia, Haig is part of the successful Avanti squad whose alumni in the WorldTour includes Garmin-Sharp duo Nathan Haas and Steel von Hoff and Sky's Porte and Earle. While Haig contemplated signing with Drapac, he explained that team manager Andrew Christie-Johnson wants to see him excel.
"Here, Andrew is happy to see me go and he wants me to go the next level so I'm really pleased I stayed here. All the guys in the team I'm great friends with, and all the support I get from Andrew and Avanti is great."
When asked by Cyclingnews what he wants to achieve on the road, Haig stated that "I'd like to have a big one-day race like Liège–Bastogne–Liège on there but also have a grand tour where I've won hopefully a hilltop stage and place in a time trial and be up there in gc.
"If I can have that at the end of my cycling career, I'd be over the moon."