A relaxed Nathan Haas has identified Caleb Ewan as the man to beat at today’s FedUni Road National Championships as he prepares for his own title assault.
Sophie Smith

Cycling Central
6 Jan 2019 - 6:26 AM 

Haas (Katusha-Alpecin) hasn’t built-up the title bout despite his strong record here, finishing top five on the last three consecutive appearances.

The 29-year-old is one of a handful of WorldTour riders that will compete without trade team support, unlike defending champion Alex Edmondson (Mitchelton-Scott).

“It’s been definitely disappointing each time you come close,” said Haas.

“It’s normally been not necessarily because you’re not good enough to win. It’s just always the feeling of getting screwed over by not actually having equal ability to win, because of teams and massive team sizes.”

Ewan is in a marginally better position having one teammate, veteran and former silver medalist Adam Hansen, at his disposal in his first championship with Lotto Soudal. The 24-year-old sprinter finished a career-best second to Heinrich Haussler on senior debut at the 2015 elite men’s championship, then with an incarnation of Mitchelton-Scott.

Roadnats: Road Race preview
It’s the first big road race for 2019. A chance for the ascending riders to make a name for themselves, for the established to take victories that rank among the best in their careers and for Australian cycling fans to see the peak of what Australia has to offer battle it out for the prestigious green and gold stripes.

That said it’s the course and not numbers that Haas argues may play to Ewan’s favour today. Cycling Australia last year introduced minor modifications to the fixed route following years of conjecture and criticism, especially from sprinters, about the difficult nature of it.

The circuit has now been extended to include Federation University grounds and through that fewer laps of the decisive Mt Buninyong climb.

“There is a huge chance he wins tomorrow because the course is actually not that hard anymore,” said Haas.

“It’s an open field but if it comes to a sprint it’s pretty clear. He’s not going to screw it up as he did in his first year, but that was because he was in his first year.

“I think they [organisers] really screwed it up making it with this extra bit around the university and taking two times off the climb. Last year I was really angry because just when the race was actually getting hard, we were finishing.

The attrition only comes from how many vertical metres you do.”

Haas will start the 185.6km elite men’s race with a bandage on his arm but otherwise healthy. Both he and Ewan were on-form last week at the Lexus Blackburn Bay Crits.

“I said to the guys on New Year’s Eve, ‘I would just like to say this is my first season on record - out of eight or nine years racing properly now - that I haven’t had a crash for the whole season, not even in training,’” Haas explained of his ailment. “And then 30 minutes into my first ride of 2019, I have a crash,” he laughed. “I’m all good. It probably got my reaction times back on track.”