The mantra ‘third time is the charm’ is part of the playlist for Chad Haga this season as he returns as one of the favourites in the elite men’s time trial at USA Cycling Pro Road Championships. This time he is back in the bold orange colours of US-based Human Powered Health, a programme that launched his pro career back in 2012.
Haga has a pair of silver medals from his days on Team Sunweb in the time trial National Championship race, both times at the 30-plus-kilometre flat track along the banks of Melton Lake in Oak Ridge, Tennessee. He sat in the hot seat for most of the hot southern day in 2018 until his time was eclipsed by Joey Rosskopf (then BMC Racing). In 2021 his time was bettered by Lawson Craddock (EF Education-EasyPost) by just 18 seconds.
He’s back with a former team this time around, and with conditioning in the scorching hot and humid conditions of the southeastern US, with temperatures expected to push toward 95 degrees Fahrenheit (35°C) on Thursday.
“I spent more time this year working specifically on long and hot TTs, so I'm hoping that it pays off here. The TT in Tour de Suisse last week went well, and it was a good practice run for tomorrow in terms of course type, duration, and weather....I also have to believe that my consistency will be rewarded at some point,” Haga told Cyclingnews.
The Texan was part of the squad that competed as one of the ProTeam selections at Tour de Suisse last week. In the 25.6km time trial to conclude the eight-day stage race Haga finished 12th, just 1:25 off the winning pace set by Remco Evenepoel (QuickStep-AlphaVinyl) and 1:22 behind runner-up Geraint Thomas (Ineos Grenadiers).
The race in Switzerland experienced extremely-hot conditions, like the US contingent will face in Tennessee for the National Championships, so Haga is not worried about that.
“[We will] be ready for a hot and hard race. Several of us spent the last week racing in similar conditions in Suisse, so we'll be ready for it,” said Haga.
The time trial specialist has done well at the WorldTour level, winning the race against the clock on the final stage of the 2019 Giro d'Italia, and the next year he was seventh in the Giro finale in Milan. He told Cyclingnews that his move from Team DSM back to the ProSeries-level Circuit Sport organisation was the right team at the right time in his career.
“I was looking for a bit less time away from home and a race program that would give me more opportunities to rediscover the type of racing that made me fall in love with it. The team also included a lot of friends, which would help me to enjoy the time off the bike even more. Transitioning back to the team has been quite smooth, since it was already familiar. It has grown since I was last here, but it still feels the same culturally,” he said.
One-time Kelly Benefit Strategies rider Ben King is now back with the Human Powered Health organisation. He won the road race national title in 2010 racing for Trek-sponsored Continental team before Haga turned pro. They’ll both give defending champion Lawson Craddock strong competition in the time trial.
“I learned early on just how tenacious and strong Ben is, since I had to chase him back a handful of times for my own team's goals. It's been a pleasure racing with him this year, he's always optimistic and gives his best, and I never have to chase him back,” Haga said.
“As for myself, I'm enjoying this new phase of my career and my family enjoys life in Girona, so I'll keep it rolling a while longer.
“I'm not certain of my whole race calendar yet, but wherever I'm racing, I will be hoping to finally snag a result. I was hit by a couple of stomach bugs this spring just as I was starting to hit my stride, so I'm still missing a result to hang my hat on. Personally, I hope to enjoy it all as much as possible – family life and racing, and just riding my bike.”
Team performance director Jonas Carney echoed what a challenging run-up to the Nationals that Haga has experienced, but knows he can deliver.
“Chad had a rough start to the season with multiple setbacks, so it was great to see him finish so strong at the final TT in Switzerland. He has worked really hard to get back to this level and he certainly has a good shot to win on Thursday,” Jonas Carney, performance director at Human Powered Health, told Cyclingnews.
Carney and his staff have a much smaller team assembled for Knoxville than last year, as injuries and illnesses have depleted the delegation. The most prominent vacancy is defending road race national champion Joey Rosskopf, who is recovering from COVID-19 that took him out of Tour de Suisse. Knoxville native Stephen Bassett, who was second in the road race in 2019 and was on good form this year, encountered a deer on a fast descent on a training ride and is out indefinitely with a broken collarbone, cracked ribs and what he assessed as “to have misplaced about half the skin on my body”.
Another of Haga’s teammates considered a wild card for the time trial and road race was Gage Hecht, who will be absent due to his comeback from injuries sustained in a crash at 4 Jours Dunkerque. Hecht was the time trial champion as a junior in 2016 and in the U23 category in 2018. In the past two editions of the elite men’s TT in Knoxville he was eighth in 2019 and in 2021, and ninth in the road race last year.
The team has also decided not to compete in the criterium this weekend, with Robin Carpenter, who was fourth at last weekend’s Harlem Skyscraper Criterium, focusing on the road race with Nate Brown.
Haga said the team was a little smaller, but ready to compete. “It's somewhat diminished from what we expected due to illness and injury, but we will still have a large and deep roster on the start line.”
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