• Nathan Haas on the attack at the Giro d'Italia. (Getty)Source: Getty
One of the riders to watch at the Giro d'Italia is Australian Nathan Haas, will not only ride for personal glory but for an important African cause.
Sophie Smith

Cycling Central
11 May 2017 - 9:46 AM  UPDATED 11 May 2017 - 11:16 AM

Haas has described riding a Grand Tour as an “out of mind experience” as he delves deeper into the Giro d’Italia and closer again to claiming a stage win on one of cycling’s biggest scenes.

The 28-year-old has already animated the centenary edition with a late attack 400m from the finish of stage three, which earned plaudits and almost paid dividends.

Haas hasn’t had the lead-up to the Giro he anticipated, ditching a plan to substitute six weeks of racing for training after the Australian summer through to the end of March.

“I’m definitely at the point now where I feel like I’ve been racing since January 1,” he said from Italy.

Haas was called to Strade Bianche and then competed in the Volta a Catalunya before a full Ardennes campaign that included a fourth place at Amstel Gold.

“You spend two weeks away from home in a hotel and you only do four races so your mind goes into some weird mushy mode, not really taking anything in but you’re actually super focused,” he said of the latter. “I had to decompress when I went home, so training has been light before the Giro.

“The possibility in a Grand Tour is what makes it so cool; opportunities should present as you go whereas a one-day race you have to do it 10 times to have the right scenario.”

The puncheur has counted no less than five undulating stages suited to his strengths. He’s also approached the Giro with the mindset of a more experienced rider and at the nervous Grand Partenza only moved up when he absolutely had to.

“I went into Ryder Hesjedal mode and spent a big portion of the day to the back of the peloton. Everyone was fighting from 150km so I moved up at 50km to go – everyone is tired of fighting then,” he said.

Haas said he has his first “realistic” shot of winning a stage of the Giro, in what is his career third start and sixth Grand Tour, despite altered preparation.

“I think it’s one of my best chances in terms of coming to a Grand Tour and actually being realistic about it. I have a few chances, not only on paper but I actually really do believe that I’ve got some opportunity to take a stage win,” he said.

Haas named stages seven, eight, nine among them, and possibly stage 16 if he makes it to the third week of the race that even the title contenders have said will be “hell”.

“Once you finish them it’s nice, but it’s not the most important thing,” he said.

Haas is in his second season with Dimension Data, which has assembled an opportunistic squad climber Igor Anton headlines. Along with its race objectives, it’s campaigning for the Qhubeka charity and aiming to raise funds and provide African girls with at least 100 bicycles.

“Safety for women is immeasurably higher on a bike than it is on foot in Africa,” Haas said.