Nathan Haas (Katusha-Alpecin) has left the Tour of Oman after one stage and will now travel back to his home in Spain to undergo medical tests to try and get to the bottom of the health problems that have held him back since the start of the season.
The Australian finished the opening stage in Oman on Saturday but did not take to the start of stage 2 on Sunday morning.
After a strong start to 2019, with fourth in the time trial at the Australian national championships, Haas struggled through the Tour Down Under, finishing fifth last, and ruled himself out of Race Melbourne and the Cadel Evans Road Race. He was soon prescribed antibiotics for a chest infection and told to take almost two weeks completely off the bike.
He came to Oman, where he won a stage last year, hoping to move back up through the gears, but was clearly not feeling right on the opening day. Ahead of the race he spoke of how many riders are “over-trained, over-raced, and not in good health”, and it seems his problems are yet to be fully understood.
“He stopped in Australia and until now we don’t know the real problem,” Katusha-Alpecin directeur sportif Dimitry Konyshev told Cyclingnews at the start of stage 2 of the Tour of Oman.
“Nobody knows. When we understand the problem, we will fix it, but for the moment, he does a couple of blood analogies again and we will see what’s going on. Now he goes home and does that tomorrow, and we wait for the results and then decide what to do.”
The most important part of the season for Haas is the spring classics campaign, particularly the Ardennes, where Amstel Gold Race is a perennial target. His early-season had already been compromised but he preferred to see it as a possible blessing in disguise, arguing that a number of riders have gone into key races on the back of setbacks and surpassed their wildest expectations.
With a key week of racing in Oman gone, however, he has been backed further into a corner and while the Ardennes are still the best part of two months away, Strade Bianche (March 8) and even Milan-San Remo (March 23) appear compromised.
“I hope he will be ok for the classics. We still have time, not much time, but we have some time,” Konyshev said.
“It depends what the problem is, then we’ll decide what to do – to force him or let him rest. The doctors need to decide.”