• Dimension Data's Nathan Haas at the 2016 Vuelta a España. (Getty)Source: Getty
Nathan Haas has detailed some of the dynamics involved in determining a season program, one that will usher in a new approach to his racing in 2017.
Sophie Smith

Cycling Central
27 Dec 2016 - 6:57 AM  UPDATED 27 Dec 2016 - 6:59 AM

Haas will as usual begin his season in Australia, with no less than five events across South Australia and Victoria, before returning to the Tour of Oman in February. 

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From there, however, he’ll effectively “reset” his season, swapping racing for up to six weeks of training in preparation for the Ardennes Classics where he hopes to make more of an impression, before later starting the Giro d’Italia.

The substitution is not new to the peloton, it’s been employed to great effect in recent time, but it is new to Haas, who will sacrifice some of the races he loves, including Milan-San Remo, to hedge bets on his own results, over those of others.

“I normally work pretty hard on some of the early one-day races, especially building up to San Remo, but I think we’ve got a pretty full on squad (for San Remo) this year,” he said.

“The directors were sort of deliberating with me about whether it’s actually worth my effort to stay and really find my shape for a result where I’ll probably just be working for somebody else. That got us thinking, maybe we actually skip racing from mid-February all the way to the end of March.

“I’m really excited because the team sat down and said, ‘what do you think of this?’” he continued. “It’s a big thing to actually say, ‘oh God, I’m giving up some of the races I love.’ But at the same time, we all had the same conclusion, that you have to give something up to maybe have something you like better.”

Haas sat down with Dimension Data brass around a pool at a team camp in Cape Town recently to arrive at the race program. Approaching his sixth season as a WorldTour professional, and second with the squad he instantly identified with on signing this year, the meeting he said was more open conversation than orders.

“This is something (performance manager) Rolf Aldag says on repeat, ‘a good team is always one that gets the rider to buy into a plan,’” he said.

“It does feel like a conversation, even if it is probably a little bit self-determined by abilities and overall plans for the team, it’s really nice to actually feel included in the conversation and get asked the program as a question, and not necessarily as a statement.

“I don’t think it’s necessarily determined by the team or you, it’s out of necessity for where the team sits and what kind of riders they have that can do the job in a race,” he added. “For example, I could go to the team and say I want to do Paris-Roubaix and I want to be good for it, but obviously Edvald Boasson Hagen is a freak at a race like that so there’s no need to even put my hand up.

“We have such a well-defined Tour de France squad as is that going to the team, asking to do the Tour de France, it’s probably not even in my best interest to be wanting to do that wholeheartedly.

“Obviously everyone wants to do it, but I think you also come down to the conversation table with a healthy sense of realism – what’s real and what can be considered a very successful season out of the things that I am good at. A good team also has that in mind as well, what is good for the rider, not just where they can fit in, or whatever.”

Brabantse Pijl and Amstel Gold, among other things, fit within those self and team-mate assessments for Haas in 2017.

“For me, Brabantse Pijl and Amstel Gold are still my two favourite races in the whole season. I think, with my skills, it’s not just that I love the race, I think I can be top 10 and hopefully one-day podium, or if not, win either of them. They’re really big aims and it’s really great the team gives me the opportunity to focus on those,” he said.

Haas will compete at the Bay Cycling Classic criteriums from 1 January, hopeful it will give him an edge at the Australian national road championship where he claimed the bunch sprint for fourth this year.

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