Jack Haig's impressive super-domestique duties at the Giro d'Italia for Mitchelton-Scott have solidified his role as a team leader for the upcoming Tour de Suisse (June 9-17). The 24-year-old Australian was a key part of Mitchelton's Giro ride, helping both Simon Yates and Esteban Chaves as the team enjoyed five stage wins and a long spell in the maglia rosa through Yates.
Haig, now in his fourth full year with the Australian team, had been penciled in for a leadership bid at the Tour de Suisse during the winter, but his consistent climbing at the Giro has enhanced his reputation.
"I'm not really surprised by Jack's level," senior sporting director Matt White told Cyclingnews as he headed back from the Giro.
"If you look at his age, and that was his third Grand Tour, at every one he's getting better and better. He's certainly stepped it up another level in terms of reliability and that's really pleasing for us, and for him."
With Adam Yates leading the team at the Critérium du Dauphiné and the team also set to race the Tour of Slovenia, Haig will have the chance to showcase his improving standing over Suisse's mountain terrain. Haig's last leadership bid came at Pais Vasco, earlier in the spring. He had been in the running for a top-10 place but he lost over seven minutes on the final stage, and slipped to 16th overall.
"The next opportunity for Jack comes at the Tour de Suisse, where he'll be a leader. That's been penciled in since the winter but it's about a process for him, and learning more about what it's like to be a protected rider and being consistent," White added.
"He was leading the team at Pais Vasco, and he was holding down a good place, but then he had one bad day in the bad weather and lost time. Suisse will be his first chance where he goes in as our leader on GC for that race."
Time to analyse the Giro
With the season in full flow, there's little chance to pause after the Giro d'Italia. However, White and the rest of the team management will use the days between now and the Dauphiné and Suisse to reflect on the first Grand Tour of this season. The team won five stages and held the maglia rosa until Yates cracked and fell out of contention on stage 19. Chaves looked impressive in the first week, won a stage and sat second overall before falling apart after the second rest-day.
"We gave winning a pretty good shot but overall I was really impressed with how the boys rode as a team. It was a really aggressive style of racing. We had lots of success and Simon was close to winning a Grand Tour. I don't think he's missing anything but over the next week we'll sit back and analyse the race in full. He has the ability to win a Grand Tour but every course is different and you can't always approach them in the same way. At the end of the day, he had some minor problems that I'm not going to make excuses over. Things just caught up with him and he had a bad day."
Chaves' next major objective is the Vuelta a Espana later in the year. A break from racing affords him and his team the chance to look under the hood and identify why he had such contrasting sides to his Giro.
"He'll stay in Europe and then we'll go through the process of finding out exactly what the issue was in the race. We have some testing coming up and then we'll go from there. We have no explanation for what went wrong, so getting to the bottom of things is the next step. He wants to know what's going on with his body, and so do we."