Haas raises hopes of Tour de France selection with another fine ride at Suisse

Nathan Haas (Katusha-Alpecin) came close to a stage win for a second time this week at the Tour de Suisse but once again narrowly missed out.

On stage 2, the Australian finished third behind Peter Sagan (Bora-Hansgorhe) and Fernando Gaviria (Quick-Step Floors), and four days later he crossed the line at Gommiswald in second place. After a disappointing spring due to health problems, the 29-year-old has put himself back in contention for a Tour de France spot, even if he is still without a win since the Tour of Oman.

Haas formed part of an 18-rider break on stage 6 and was still in contention for the stage win when the remnants of the early move hit the final slopes of the last climb. However, the tactics of Team Sunweb, coupled with the brute strength of eventual stage winner Soren Kragh Andersen, scuppered Haas’ chances.

Michael Gogl attacked from the break with 2.3km remaining, but as the road continued to rise on the last climb it was Kragh Andersen who countered before catching and passing the Trek-Segafredo rider. Haas gave chase, but he was unable to pull himself back into contention.

“When Gogl went I knew it wasn’t the moment. It was too hard and then I hoped that Maxime Monfort, who was with me, would go a little longer to close the gap. Then finally Kragh Andersen jumped over the top of us and he just had a bit more strength. He was just better in the final,” Haas told Cyclingnews as he sat on the tarmac after the finish.

“That was an awesome stage, actually. Suisse is nice when there’s no rain. I won’t lie, I’m a little upset to get second. Sunweb played the tactic with Matthews in the back, but it always hurts a little more when you’re beaten by a tactic when a guy sits on for the final 30km and we were pushing as hard as we could to actually win the race. Hats off, he’s an awesome rider and this is a big win for him, but what can you say… I put a lot of spirit into today.”

Haas joined Katusha in the winter after two bright seasons at Dimension Data. His time at Katusha began in promising fashion with a stage win in the Tour of Oman, but a disappointing Ardennes followed. The Australian told Cyclingnews at Suisse that he had gone through health issues, although he would not elaborate on the precise problem.

“For those that don’t know, I went through a really rough patch in April with health," Haas said. "My body just stopped working altogether. My team doctors and my family put a lot of work into helping me back into shape. So it’s unreal to be back and to feel this strong, especially when I really didn’t think that it would come back for the rest of the year.”

With his health, form and confidence back on track, Haas has put himself in with a strong chance of making Katusha’s Tour de France team. The squad will be built around Marcel Kittel and Ilnur Zakarin, but Haas provides an alternative option for intermediate and hilly stage wins, while he is also capable and willing to work for others.

“I’m not confirmed to go yet," he said. "I really hope that I can make the team. It would be an honour to make the Tour team at Katusha this year. It’s such a strong group, with real leaders like Kittel and Zakarin. I’m just trying to do my best to get there.”

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