• Simon Gerrans, Miles Scotson and Nathan Haas. (Cycling Australia)Source: Cycling Australia
Nathan Haas (Dimension Data) was in a reflective mood after his strong ride for bronze in today’s National Road Race Championships.
Jamie Finch-Penninger

Cycling Central
8 Jan 2017 - 7:43 PM  UPDATED 9 Jan 2017 - 6:20 AM

Nathan Haas clearly came into the race with some impressive form and the race played almost perfectly into his hands. His teammates covered moves, aggressively monitored the escape attempts of other teams and ended up with Haas with the front group in the final few kilometres. 

Like all the other contenders, he was caught out by Miles Scotson’s bold attack and he had mixed feeling after the finish.

“It’s always a funny feeling,” Haas said, “if you had told me this morning ‘you’re going to be third from a really hard and impressive race’, I’d be like ‘cool’. But it’s always hard when you come to a championship event knowing you’ve done the work as well and knowing it suits you. Obviously third is a great result and it’s a great way to start the year for Dimension Data.”

Haas was quick to praise the work of his teammates, who made sure that Dimension Data was in a good position throughout the race, with Lachlan Morton in the early move and Ben O’Connor riding aggressively deep into the race.

“I think what really came out of today was how we rode as a team. Ben O’Connor, who’s a very young entrant to the World Tour rode out of his skin today, he didn’t miss a beat, he fully committed to the overall cause, especially when the plan had to change. And Lachie Morton, he showed today the class we all know he’s got, he’s just been missing from the World Tour. Without being biased I think Team Dimension Data was the strongest on course.”

“This course has no gifts and it takes no prisoners.”

Haas on foxing

Just after the final stage of the Bay Crits, Haas was asked what his form was like for nationals. He looked skinny, had good speed and whilst he was often at the back of the peloton he would be right up the front the next lap, threatening to attack. Despite these signs, he was non-committal, saying he had to test his legs and didn’t really know how he was going. It turns out that he was foxing quite a bit.

“I went to the Bay Crits just to get some leg speed and I was really hiding my form, staying out of the sprints and backing out of every corner so I had to bring it up again. I’ve been sprinting over 1600 watts the last few days and thinking ‘this is good’.”

Conversely, Haas views the situation as reversed once the summer of cycling reaches Adelaide.  

“You don’t want to go into nationals with people knowing that you’re flying but you want to go into Down Under with people knowing you’re going well because positioning becomes a lot easier. If they think that you’re a real threat. You tend to always see the sprinters group together for the sprint and also the punchy rouleurs for a climb like Paracombe (where Stage 2 of the TDU will finish). You’ll tend to find the bubble of guys forming around each other that they know are going good. So it’s a good thing to show form here today for the next racing.”

Haas on the finale

Renowned as a guy who can get over the hills and still be ready to win a reduced bunch sprint, Haas has quite a bit in common with Simon Gerrans and has built a healthy rivalry with the two-time national champion.

“I put a super big chain ring on the front because I actually wanted to lead out the sprint today. For once I had the speed to kick again when Gerro was on my hip. It was always the plan to have Gerro behind me, I know he’s not going to lose the fight to be in front or behind, he’s always going to be behind me.”

Haas went into the home straight in second wheel, just behind Luke Durbridge who was riding for Gerrans.

“So I was pretty keen to go long and kick over again and when I was sitting on Durbo’s wheel I was thinking ‘this is the perfect plan’. But Miles hit us at the perfect moment because the legs that I thought never died in Durbridge, died. He just swung out, both his arms were cramping, his quads were cramping."

“I’m left there with 1.1 km to go. What do you do? In retrospect, maybe I would have tried to keep myself more patient at the back, but at the same time when you know you’ve got the legs for the sprint you’re happy to lead it out. I was happy with my position for the sprint and hindsight is 20/20.”

Haas on the race

Whilst he no doubt would have been happier with a gold medal, Haas was appreciative of the spectacle of what will go down as one of the most memorable editions of the race.

“What won today was cycling, that was the coolest race I’ve been part of in so long."

"It was exciting, it was down to the wire, there were all these crazy tactics going on. Teams were pushing it and stopping. “I don’t even know if it was going to come together until the very end. If we as cyclists can keep being entertainers in the forum of what we did today, I think cycling can grow from here.”

With the nationals over for another year, the euphoria around the track after witnessing the dramatic finish was still in the air. Haas summed up the mood of many who were still buzzing from the spectacle.

“A championship race is different from anything else, that’s why I like one-day racing. It’s all courage. Miles put himself on the line today, he can run a drum in the sprint and he could have taken himself out of the sprint with the move he made.

“It takes courage to win these races and I want to focus my career on these races predominantly. I love one-week racing too and grand tours are an important part of what we do. It can be cruel until it’s kind.”