Of the new and updated colours of the peloton in 2018, the red and light blue of Katusha-Alpecin has been ever present at the head of the peloton for the Tour Down Under finals. The Swiss-registered team is backing Nathan Haas for a podium, with the Australian finishing fourth and fifth overall in previous editions.
In his opening five race days in 2018, Haas has now finished fifth on three occasions. Thursday's sprint stage into Victor Harbor in 47-degree heat was unsuited to his characteristics and, therefore, a 20th place was unsurprising. While Haas obviously has the form, a team committed to the cause is also boosting his confidence and self-belief.
"My legs are feeling really good. We are only getting closer and closer, yesterday seventh, today fifth and I think there are stages which suit more than this one," he said after stage 2. "If Caleb can win this one, it means it is not exactly my kind of stage. It's pretty close to what I can do but today I wasn't good enough.
"We have only good things to come from out of the first day and another good thing to come from today. I think we can build it to be a really good team win coming in the next weeks or months but hopefully here."
For the 28-year-old, team is key. Moving across to Katusha-Alpecin from Dimension Data, the Tour Down Under is Haas' first race with his new teammates. Speaking to Cyclingnews on the stage 2 start line, Haas was quick to praise his teammates after just one day of racing together.
"My team yesterday was incredible. We were on point from kilometre one to the end. It is a super professional outfit and it is really nice to work with guys who really understand their roles, take pride in what they do and also have these huge engines," he told Cyclingnews.
Across the three stages, small breakaways have left bonus seconds out on the line at the intermediate sprint points. From the breakaway, Haas, teammate Jhonatan Restrepo and Bora-Hansgrohe's Jay McCarthy have been the most active riders in chasing time. It has been the hunt for bonus seconds where Katusha-Alpecin's cards have been laid on the table and so far, Haas is up on McCarthy.
Bumped from the overall podium on the final day of last year's race when riding with Dimension Data, Haas is well aware the race can come down to seconds and even placings. Friday afternoon in Uraidla though, the 28-year-old will be aiming to capitalise on the work of his teammate and take his first win in the red and blue. He is hoping to turn intermediate sprint bonuses into a stage victory and subsequently jump up the GC from his current sixth place overall.
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