Nathan Haas is hoping to get his Dimension Data career off to a flying start later this month at the Tour Down Under. Haas, who finished fifth overall at the 2014 race, takes joint leadership of the team alongside fellow new recruit Cameron Meyer. He sees his home races as a chance to springboard to more success later down the line.
“The early season races in Australia are a good way to get the ball rolling and build the confidence. That is a major thing in the sport. Once you get a win you don’t have to be in the top form, and you’ve just got the confidence that you can pull something out of the bag,” Haas told Cyclingnews.
Haas finally signed for Dimension Data last September after long discussions with the team’s general manager, Brian Smith, that began as far back as 2014. He says that making the decision to leave the Cannondale-Garmin team, that he’d been in for the past four years, was a difficult but necessary one he had to make.
However, he believes that his move to the newest WorldTour team on the block will be a chance to make some progress in his career. Talking to Haas, the sense of excitement of what lays ahead in his career is clear. “I think what is nice about this team is that anyone can step up. It’s a team that is waiting for guys to make the next step and that is where I see myself,” explained Haas.
“I’ve gotten to the end of so many finals, and either screwed it up or gone too early in a sprint and just been on the podium instead of the win. Sometimes I've maybe done too much work for GC teammates, which is not a bad thing, but it takes away from your potential performance. I know my ability, whether people doubt it or don’t believe in it, I do and I know that I can and I think that, for me, it is going to be a place that encourages it and will make it happen.”
Haas still has some very fond memories of his time with the Slipstream set up that runs the Garmin team. “I had a great time and I think that I did some good work there, and I contributed to some pretty historic wins like Liege-Bastogne-Liege and Lombardia with Dan [Martin],” said Haas. “Everything about Slipstream and what is great about it, was that it was easy.
“I was very green when I came to road cycling. I’d come off a very successful year in Australia, and I’d never raced a road bike in Europe before. My draw to the team at the end of 2012 was Allan Peiper. I had a good friendship with him. During that first year, when I was really struggling to be away from home and learning the ropes about racing, he was my go-to man. Sadly his time at Garmin ended but, by then, I was more used to being in Europe.”
Going for gold
Haas is a big follower of the adage, 'fail to prepare and prepare to fail'. He turned up to his ‘goal setting’ session at the team’s training camp in November with a notepad full of ideas. “Nobody ever won a race by accident, and you have to plan these things,” he told Cyclingnews. His first real target of the year will be the Tour Down Under, but it is the Ardennes Classics and one race in particular that really has his attention.
“For me, I feel like my main reason for being in this sport is the Amstel Gold race,” said Haas. “It’s something, even when I think about it, it gives me tingles. I can’t explain it, but I love it. For me, ultimately one day I’d like to win the race. I think that I’m a dark horse to be on the podium, even this year. I expect to be in the realm of top 10, and I don’t see any reason, unless I screw up, why that won’t happen.”
Haas’ goals are not only on the bike in 2016, and he’s keen to do his effort for the Qhubeka charity. The Australian has worked with charities while riding for the Continental Genesys Wealth Advisers team back in 2010 and 2011. The experience has given him a new perspective, and he’s keen to make the most of his involvement with Dimension Data and Qhubeka.
“During my early years in road cycling with Genesys, which was called the Moira Kelly Children First Foundation, and I had never done any charity work until then,” said Haas. “We met these children from worn-torn parts of the world with disabilities and injuries from landmines. You’ve got no idea how lucky you’ve got it until you see this.
“I sometimes think you don’t realise the impact of something until you see it in the flesh and then often your heart is opened to it. I’m looking forward to it, and I’ve been talking to some of the people on the team and at Dimension Data and Deloitte about a few ways that we can activate that sponsorship and make some more money throughout the year.”
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