A late call up to the Tour of California with Dimension Data after an injury lay off, Nathan Haas showed off his fast finish on stage 2 to Santa Clarita as the Australian crossed the line in eighth place, eight seconds down on winner and former teammate Ben King (Cannondale) in a group that included world champion Peter Sagan.
Haas, the recent king of the mountains winner at the Tour de Yorkshire, explained post-stage that with multiple Tour of California stage winner Mark Cavendish struggling to get over the hilly parcours to the finish, the team turned its attention to a result with the 26-year-old.
"A stage like today is always something where it's hard to make a call. We have the fastest man in the world with Mark Cavendish here, but it all depends on how the race is ridden in the end. Today, unfortunately, he didn't have the legs to get over all of the climbs," Haas said. "But he gave me the opportunity to show myself in the finish. After dealing with injury for a few weeks it's nice for me to see that I'm in a good shape now. It's all good momentum for the future. I hope we can get a big result here."
Dimension Data came into the race with a squad full of options for stage wins and the GC but hadn't marked stage 2 as one that suited its riders as sports director Roger Hammond explained.
"It was a difficult day today with a lot of climbing. We had a bit of a plan. The crucial role today was to help Jacques [Janse van Rensburg] not to lose any time on GC. We knew one wouldn't win the race here, but it's possible to lose it on a stage like today," Hammond said. "So I think we achieved that goal."
The Brit added that having Haas mixing it up against the likes of Peter Sagan and Katusha's Alexander Kristoff in the finish bodes well for the remaining six stages.
"To have Nathan coming back from injury and being up there in the sprint was a real good bonus. It's nice to know that we've got somebody that can be competitive on the hilly bunch sprint days," said Hammond.
Stage 3 of the Tour of California is regarded as the most decisive for the GC men with the climb up to Gibraltar expected to shake up the overall standings with Dimension Data aiming to ensure Janse van Rensburg can move into the top-ten.