Not content with spending over 100 kilometres in the day's break, Nathan Haas (Garmin-Barracuda) decided to go it alone with two laps left to race of Old Willunga Hill on stage 5 of the Tour Down Under on Saturday. While it didn't pay off in the end, it was a good indicator of the neo-pro's promise at the WorldTour level.
"It wasn't exactly a gamble, I was just trying to be in front for my team all day so I thought I'd capitalise on the lead we already had just to take some pressure off the boys up the climb," Haas explained after the race.
It's been a big week for Haas, the 22-year-old making his WorldTour debut on home turf after blasting his way into the wider cycling world's consciousness with overall victory at the Jayco Herald Sun Tour last October when he wrapped up Australia's National Road Series in the process.
"The thing that I've noticed so far is that there's more depth here, there's more guys on top condition as opposed to the racing that I've done where there's only 20 to look out for," Haas noted. "The biggest change hasn't necessarily been the speed or the quality; it's more how many guys are good."
Haas believed that being out in front benefited his teammates in the hunt for prime GC positioning, namely Heinrich Haussler, Ryder Hesjedal and Jack Bauer, who were all 12 seconds in arrears before stage 5.
"Coming into the climb, if I still had a bit of legs left I wasn't going to be able to be there on the last lap with them because I'd been out all day, so the best thing was for me to go then and there and keep them on the front foot until the latest time possible," he said.
When Haas took off on his own during the first ascent of Willunga, it was hard not to think about to his epic performance to outride Jack Bobridge on the penultimate stage of the Sun Tour and take the overall lead. The circumstances were vastly different, however, with Haas over 17 minutes down on GC heading into Saturday’s stage, but though he admitted the gutsy attack was doomed to fail, there were plenty of positives.
"Today was one of the first days where I actually had good sensations on a climb for a long time," Haas explained. "It's good moving forward from here. Knowing that I'm going to Europe on Monday for eight, nine months, it's nice to be going over there with some good condition."
Bauer ended up being the best-placed of the Garmin-Barracuda team, finishing in ninth, 26 seconds down on stage winner Alejandro Valverde (Movistar), with Haussler in 32nd nearly three minutes down.
"It's just what it is; cycling's a team sport and today was just that," Haas reasoned. "Unfortunately it didn't pan out the way we wanted but you've got to put your best foot forward and that's all you can do."
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