Jack Haig's Orica-GreenEdge career has started in winning fashion, helping teammate Caleb Ewan to three wins at the Mitchelton Bay Cycling Classic, and the national criterium title. The 22-year-old is hoping to make it three from three in today's Australian national championships.
"I came into bay crits a little bit underdone and then sort of surprised myself there will how well I am going so I am hoping that the form is still there on Sunday and I can do a really good job to help Gerro or Caleb get up for the win," Haig told Cyclingnews. "We have quite a few people on the team who are able to win the race. It's pretty cool coming into the race with a really large possibility that we can come out of the race with a national jersey."
Haig finished third in his first attempt at the U23 road race on the hilly 10.2km Buninyong circuit, placing tenth and eighth in the next two editions. While the pace will be higher and the race longer, Haig will be a key rider for the team up the Midland Highway and Mt Buninyong climb where the race winning move is likely to be made. In his first two races with the team, Haig has shown he can do a job when called upon, reflected in his selection for four of the five races over the Australian summer.
Haig made his WorldTour debut at the 2014 Tour Down Under with the UniSA wildcard team, winning the best young rider classification. He then finished third overall at the Jayco Herald Sun Tour before heading to Europe to race with the U23 WorldTour Academy team. 2015 saw a return to the Australian WorldTour race in his final season as an U23 rider. Haig explained that being exposed to racing at the highest level of the sport and waiting until 2016 to turn pro has ensured an almost seamless transition into the Orica-GreenEdge ranks.
"Having the opportunity to race Tour Down Under with UniSA the last two years has made it less of a daunting transition having raced with all the WorldTour guys," he said. "As well as just being in an Australian team having done the training camp with GreenEdge two years ago and I got to know everyone then so when I came to training camp at the end of last year I didn't have that awkward new person feeling because I'd known everyone and the staff.
"Obviously there is still some of that awkwardness there being the new guy but it definitely wasn't as scary or daunting if I jumped into an Italian team or a French team straight away."
The Tour Down Under will be the only Australian race of the summer that Haig will miss. He will then head back to his European base in Girona, where he will share an apartment with Bora-Argon 18's Zak Demspter, to continue his season.
"Early part of the season I'd like to be there at the end of the road race to help Gerro in the nationals. I do Cadels Race and Sun Tour so I think we have a really strong team for Cadels race and hopefully we can get the win there," he said. "Going to Sun Tour with Caleb targeting stages, I think myself and Damien [Howson] are there to mix things up on GC and see how we go. I'd really like to be firing when we get to Europe, I have a really good race block with some nice tours after March so that's were I really want to start hitting some good form.
"It's always there on the back of my head that I'd love to win a race or get a really good result but I also know that being first year pro, it can be pretty hard to do that and you need to be a bit of an exception to get that result in the he first year," he said. "I am working harder than ever before to achieve that, but I'd be happy to come out of the end of the season not having any results but having a really good season, helping the team and cementing my spot in a WorldTour team."
Haig is then looking to finish off his first season in the professional ranks with a start at the Vuelta a Espana.
"I am not on the list for the Vuelta yet but I would really like to perform well during the year and hopefully get a start at that," he said. "I'd really like to finish my season having got a start at a grand tour. It's something that I'd like to see myself doing well at in the next couple of years so starting the Vuelta would be good. It's the end of the season and general warmer weather, it's not so stressful."