Jack Haig (UniSA), the 2013 Australian National Road Series Champion, entered the Tour Down Under as an unknown quality to the majority of the peloton. Teammate Caleb Ewan has been making headlines, having won the Australian national U23 road race and criterium and placed third in Sunday night's People Choice Classic, while Haig has quietly been going about his work. Benefitting from the fact that five of the UniSA team ride for Avanti, of which Haig is one, the 20-year-old has established a stranglehold over the white jersey at the Tour Down Under.
Before today's stage on the start line, Haig stated that he was too far behind in overall to challenge for the win but would give it his best shot nevertheless. "It's next to impossible to regain 21 seconds on Simon Gerrans, but I'm looking for time bonus to move up to the ten overall," Haig said.
While Ewan missed the split in the peloton, the attentive Haig made the selection and looks all but certain to win the young rider classification. After the race, a buoyant Haig spoke about the day's racing. "The first climb was really hard, then it was pretty mellow till the first sprint. With all the crosswinds, it was a question of staying out of the gutter. The bunch split and I was the only young rider up there I think," he said.
Haig's closest rival for the win is Spaniard Carlos Verona (Omega Pharma-Quick Step) who led the classification for stages two and three but is 1:19 behind. Having started the day in the white jersey, Kenny Elissonde (FDJ) missed the sp and now leads the rest of the young riders, 13:38 behind Haig.
As a climber, Haig's lead shouldn't be challenged by Verona on the ascent up Willunga Hill tomorrow and with Sunday's race a street criterium, he should claim his first WorldTour young rider classification jersey. Haig will also benefit from his 2013 season in which he defended race leads on several occasions.
A symbol of Haig's talent on two wheels is his season goal of concreting on the Commonwealth Games in Glasgow this year, targeting a mountain bike medal, then hopefully a trainee berth later in the season.