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Haig confident of Vuelta a Espana success with Orica-Scott leaders

Jack Haig returns to the Vuelta a Espana in 2017 with Orica-Scott confident the Australian team can win the race or place Adam and Simon Yates or Esteban Chaves on the podium.

The Australian enters the race off the back of his first WorldTour win at the Tour de Pologne earlier this month and is full of self-confidence and belief in Orica-Scott's ability to hits its targets over the three weeks in Spain. It is his second Grand Tour after also being part of the successful Orica-Scott team that helped Chaves finish third overall at the Vuelta in 2016.

"I'm nowhere near as nervous as the first one. I feel a little bit more comfortable both within myself but also within the team and also it is not so much an unknown factor," Haig told Cyclingnews.

"Before you do your first Grand Tour you always hear stories from guys on the team and other guys in the peloton and of course everyone adds a little bit of sugar on top. It is all a bit exaggerated and you get a bit scared with everyone telling the stories behind it. This year I feel quite a bit more comfortable with my role in the team. Last year I came in being a neo-pro and not knowing 100 per cent where I fitted into the team and this year I hope I can slot into the team in a bit more of a certain way. I also feel that my fitness has grown a fair bit."

In 2016, Chaves lead the line for Orica-Scott, with Simon Yates in support and sixth overall. In 2017, Adam Yates joins the GC assault and while some teams may struggle with the power balance of three captains, Haig doesn't believe it will be an issue for Orica.

"With both the Yateses and Chaves coming to the Vuelta it is interesting. I am going to be interested to see how it plays out and hopefully not have too many chiefs and not enough Indians," he said.

"Everyone gets along super well in our team and its something that is quite rare compared to some other teams. We can go into a tour with three leaders and it is not going to a be a problem like it has in the past with other teams. Like the classic one when Lance and Contador were on the same team and tried to do the Tour together [2009 with Astana -ed]. It was a massive falling out."

A knee injury has meant Chaves is yet to reach the heights of his Giro and Vuelta podium results from 2016 this season. The Yates twins, by comparison, have finished top-10 at the Giro and Tour respectively. Although the trio are yet to win a Grand Tour, Haig doesn't believe it will hinder the ambition of winning the overall.

"We're quite confident. I think maybe we are not going in there with say a Chris Froome or a Vincenzo Nibali, someone who has won Grand Tours before, but we are definitely going in there with three guys who have the potential to at least finish on the podium," he said.

"If not have two people on the podium or pick up a couple of stage wins in the mountains. We have quite a strong team with the potential to come out of the race with some good results."

The chance to take a win

Haig's role for the three weeks is to support the trio in the mountains, but with stage 3 finishing in his adopted home of Andorra, he is dreaming of taking the win if the moment is right.

"If the opportunity arose that there was a chance to attack or everything was good. Of course I’d love to try and have a go at winning the stage in Andorra," he said. "It would be pretty special winning in my ‘home town’. Or ‘home country’. I go to the Vuelta with the aim of trying to do my best to help the Yates and Chaves achieve their goals and the team goals of ending up on the podium or winning the race."

Should he raise his arms in triumph at the race, Haig is well aware how a win would change his career.

"It would be a really big moment for myself. I think it would also help confirm to me that I belong in the WorldTour peloton. As an under 23 or a first year pro last year, you dream of being a professional or winning big races," he said.

"Winning a stage in a Grand Tour and being able to lead a team in some weeklong stage races is the next step after my stage win in Poland. I feel that my career is on a really nice path to try and achieve those goals."

Due to Haig's teamwork at the Criterium du Dauphine in June, there was a call for him to be selected for the Tour de France. Haig admitted that there "was a little bit of talk" about selection but he was simply focused on racing the Vuelta.

The team's belief in Haig's ability to get the job done is also reflected in current contract negotiations with Haig explaining he won't be racing for a deal at the Vuelta.

"We are talking at the moment and hopefully we can come to an agreement on staying with Orica-Scott. The world that we live in and the jobs that we have mean we are coming to a stressful part of the year for some riders. We are essentially contract workers but performing for yourself and your team instead of performing because you need a job is a little bit nicer." 

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