Garmin-Sharp rider leads KOM classification
Nathan Haas (Australian National Team) is happy to just try and defend his Jayco Herald Sun Tour title.
On December 20, Haas tore his hip flexor which resulted in some time off the bike and derailing his race preparation.
"I actually had eight days off the bike over Christmas," Haas told Cyclingnews when asked if he had a chance of threatening for the yellow jersey and repeat his performance of 2011, which landed him a contract with Garmin-Sharp.
"I had a crash and tore my hip flexor. I was pretty happy to be even able to think about starting come New Year's Day. It was still hurting on the 31st [December]."
Haas' actions during Stage 1 of this year's event didn't give too much away of the trouble he'd been having, getting himself in the early break before finished 11:32 in arrears of the stage winner, Aaron Donnelly (Huon-Genesys). While it effectively ended his chances of claiming overall, on this day the result wasn't that bad when you take into account that the last rider to finish was another 26 minutes back.
"I saw a few big groups went," Haas said of the early attacks which animated the brutally hot stage with temperatures at the finish recorded at 46 degrees. "Our team was marked really heavily all day so I just thought that if I went in the break, it would just nullify and it would be all good... I sat on for most of it and just sort of rolled through when the group was not motivated."
Haas eventually came back to one of the chase groups after taking maximum points on the highest of the two category climbs of the day on Mount Macedon, giving him the lead in the KOM classification.
As the big name squad in the peloton, with Haas, Simon Gerrans, Simon Clarke, Matt Goss, Stuart O'Grady and Jay McCarthy, the Australian National Team came under a fair amount of pressure on the rest of the field. The team did a lot of work in a bid to try and bring back the main break of the day with all six riders on the front of the main bunch, drilling the pace.
"No one was sure how the race was going to pan out," Haas admitted. "What we sort of assumed was that it was going to be choppy and changey but still be able to hold it together."
The team was effectively outraced but to be fair, none of their riders are in top form with the European season some way off. Two-time Sun Tour winner Gerrans is their best-placed rider in ninth overall at 2:45 behind Donnelly, with Clarke in 10th on the same time.