• Jack Haig is ready for his final major event as an under-23 (Getty Images)Source: Getty Images
The Richmond under-23 road race will be Jack Haig’s last before joining superstar peers at Orica-GreenEDGE in 2016.
Mary Topping

25 Sep 2015 - 8:45 AM  UPDATED 25 Sep 2015 - 12:06 PM

Lumpy cobblestone climbs pitted with crevices could raise quite a bit of havoc in the world championship road races. Jack Haig welcomes them and looks forward to aggressive racing.

Two cobbled slopes lie within the last 4km of the 16km circuit. The first is a winding 215m path in Libby Hill Park. The latter section runs straight uphill, as steeply as 19 per cent. It consists of old and new material and may surprise some teams. Bitumen used to cover most of one side of the narrow chute until the city replaced that portion with cobbles in July.

Haig believes 10 ascents on those uneven stretches during the 10 lap under-23 race will tax the riders. If the field races aggressively, pure sprinters and the less fit riders will lag behind.

Preview: world championships under-23 men’s road race
The outcome of the under-23 road race will be determined by how hard riders attack the course early on, and which of the marked sprinters they can shell before the final assault on the 10 lap course.

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Cycling Australia’s U23 Men’s National Road Coach, James Victor, sees opportunities for Haig and team-mates Harry Carpenter, Alistair Donohoe, Nicholas Schultz, and Miles Scotson to do well. He predicts a group of about 20 hitting Libby Hill first in the final lap.

Neither cobbles nor climbs should threaten 22-year-old Haig.

In late July he earned the KOM classification at Coppa dei Laghi - Trofeo Almar by topping a straight cobblestone climb consistently near the front.

His second overall result at the Tour de l’Avenir testifies to his uphill speed. While the profiles sharpened during the last four of eight days, he rose steadily in general classification. He finished the final, toughest stage on a Category 1 summit on the same time as the winner.

Haig’s results in France impress all the more as they came against WorldTour riders who competed in the Tour de l’Avenir for the first time.

“It made the racing better, harder, really interesting,” said Haig. “I was really happy with how it turned out.”

Happiness is a relative state for Haig, measured by an internal barometer of hard work and consistency. He started the espoirs event without special expectations.

“It didn’t matter whether I was second or I won or was tenth.

I just really wanted to put in a good, consistent performance and be happy within myself that I did the best I could.”

- Jack Haig

Haig attributed the Avenir showing to a difficult training block he completed after shedding skin on pavement at the Tour de Bretagne in late April. Following a fractured elbow in February, the injury precipitated a mid-season reset. He aimed to make the second half of the year count in three tours that suit him: Giro Ciclistico della Valle d'Aosta Mont Blanc, Tour Alsace, and the Avenir.

“With all that training and hard work, I knew I had it in my legs and I wanted to get some reward for all the hard work,” he said about his effort at the Avenir. “You go out, you [gut] yourself every day. To come away with being personally very satisfied with my performance but also having that reflected on the result sheet was pretty cool.”

Haig raced Avenir as a member of the Jayco-AIS World Tour Academy. Spending his last under-23 year in that development environment was part of the arrangement when he pledged to Orica-GreenEDGE for 2016.

Next season he’ll join the team with young phenoms like Esteban Chaves who, at age 25, won two stages and wore the leader’s jersey in this year’s La Vuelta a Espana.

Haig views his future teammates as an adrenaline boost instead of tough acts to follow. “I think if I start helping them out, it will then help me become one of those guys.

“I guess it can be good motivation for myself to make sure I do everything right and I’m professional in everything because there is competition,” Haig said, when asked about selection for prestigious races.

On the flip side, he anticipates benefits from the team’s low-pressure philosophy toward neo-pros.

His plans for 2016 begin with setting up a home base in Girona, Spain later this year. Once with the team he’ll focus on making the adjustment from the under-23 ranks to the WorldTour and helping the team.

If a grand tour start is in the cards for next year, he’ll take it. One day Haig wants to place well in the Tour de France or another grand tour. To that end, he’s working on improvements in time trialing. In the near term he’d like to come good in shorter tours.

Under-23 coach Victor expects Haig will manage the transition to a WorldTour team better than most neo-pros. “Jack’s had some independence in Bendigo for a while and he’s got a fairly mature head on his shoulders,” Victor noted. “I think that’s going to help him in his first couple of years as a professional, knowing how tough that next step is.”

After Richmond Haig plans to holiday in San Sebastian, Spain and perhaps Portugal and Morocco. Some surfing could smooth over the sting in his arms leftover from the worlds road race cobblestones.

SBS will broadcast the under 23 men's road race on Saturday 26 September from 3:00am AEST on SBS/HD with streaming available right here on the Cycling Central website.