• Nathan Haas was a very happy camper after bagging a Tour of Oman stage win. (Getty)
Nathan Haas was close to tears after he won stage two and took the race lead of the Tour of Oman yesterday, screaming repeatedly in equal joy and relief as he crossed the line.
By
Sophie Smith

Source:
Cycling Central
15 Feb - 5:18 AM  UPDATED 15 Feb - 5:22 AM

A day after describing himself to Cycling Central as a perennial race bridesmaid, Haas beat Greg Van Avermaet (BMC Racing) and Alexey Lutsenko (Astana) in a 14-man bunch sprint to chalk his first victory in more than a year and new team Katusha-Alpecin's first of the season.

Cooled down Haas warms up again in Oman
Nathan Haas has revealed he ground to a halt following an especially hot Tour Down Under last month where he suffered from heat stress that had long-lingering side effects.

"I don't want to look too silly with tears but I have to tell you, I have been working on a win for a while. I said I'm always the bridesmaid, so today I put on the wedding dress," Haas said as he rested on a street curb just past the finish in Al Bustan, Muscat.

The 28-year-old had a tough Australian summer campaign, struggling in intense heat at the Tour Down Under, which had lingering effects and compounded on growing frustrations over results.

Haas has consistently been in the mix but not on the mark in recent years, and, from what he has said in Oman, his own worst critic to a point of detriment.

"I put a lot of pressure on myself and maybe it's a bit unrealistic at times. I'm always just hungry and sometimes when you don't get the feed of a win, and you keep coming so close for a few years, you just end up getting frustrated," he said.

"I know that's not the right thing because it's bike racing, it's not a game of soccer where one team wins and the other team loses. There's 200 dudes you have to beat so today, to beat Van Avermaet like that, it's been what I've been chasing for ages."

Haas, who last won a race with former team Dimension Data at the 2016 Vuelta a Burgos, has been working with sports psychologist, David Spindler, who has helped the Australian manage the weight of his own expectation.

"I felt like I had a really good mental build-up to Down Under as well and when that fell apart so did I, which I shouldn't. It's not very cool and it's not very pro to do that but I really had a hard time. He, my partner and my team really put me back together, so it's a good moment," Haas said.

"I just had so much anger and frustration building up that it's not a healthy thing to have. Only the last few weeks I learned to relax it again, and I really just wanted to put that anger and frustration into the moment that I had to go. Once I kicked I wasn't letting anyone win."

Haas responded to attacks from Trek-Segafredo, BMC, Quick-Step and Astana on the final, race defining climb of the 167.5km stage from Sultan Qaboos University to Al Bustan.

He studied old footage of retired professional Fabian Cancellara, who has previously won here, as preparation for the finish where Haas also credited new teammates.

"Lutsenko took Van Avermaet's wheel, which is always the favourite but he always goes so long. I knew that from watching the footage of Cancellara sprint here, he waited and went on the right and it's actually a shorter line. I actually used my head before my legs got to kick in," Haas said.

"Definitely today the delivery from my team was just incredible. They have a maturity to racing where you can be patient and calm.

"When that attack of eight guys goes up the road, I didn't feel like I had to jump in it for the first time in my life because I know I have a team that can fix anything.

"To finish off like that, of course, I have to have done the work and training but you can actually use your power at the right time when you've got a team that looks after you perfect."

Haas has a four-second advantage on Van Avermaet in the overall standings ahead of the 179.5km third stage from the German University of Technology to Wadi Dayqah Dam today.

The general classification is likely to be decided on the queen stage to Green Mountain, and Haas, now buoyed by success, has not ruled out a shot at the overall podium.

"I was [ninth - ed.] on Green Mountain last year and I think I'm climbing a little bit better than I was then, I'm a little bit lighter and my bike is awesome. I'm going to fight until the end, whether or not I can hold the red or maybe even get on the podium. It's cycling, you can do pretty special things when you're in front."