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Jack Haig: Raw talent from Down Under

Jack Haig started cycling in Bendigo, at a local mountain bike club, and at first he wasn’t thinking about becoming a rider. But things changed after being selected for the U19 World Championships, when he decided to train properly in order to be in the best possible shape. All that hard work helped Jack finish in the top 50, a result that gave him the confidence needed to carry on, with the long-term goal of becoming a professional rider.

A couple of years later, during the 2014 season, the young Aussie got the chance to ride the Tour Down Under, as well as many other important races, that suited him and provided the opportunity to show his class. After a strong 17th place in Down Under, he showed some beautiful form in the Sun Tour and the Tour de Korea, before moving to Europe, where he finished second in the Tour Alsace and 12th in the Tour de l’Avenir, cycling’s most prestigious U23 stage race.

All these results where enough for Orica-GreenEdge to sign Jack and allow him to follow his dream of becoming a pro rider. His transition to the Australian World Tour team will work nicely: after racing with Avanti during the local season, Jack Haig will join the U23 Australian Academy, before racing for Orica as a stagiaire from the summer, and as a pro starting with the 2016 season.

Recently, I got the chance to talk to Jack about his past year and his plans for 2015, a season in which many good things should come for the 21-year-old cyclist.

– Jack, in your first stage race of the year, Tour Down Under, you finished 17th – best result of a non-World Tour rider. What did it meant for you?

It was amazing to get a result like that at the start of the year, it kinda confirmed to me that I could potently make it as a pro one day. It was a bit of a crazy week with all the hype that is around a World Tour race, but I really enjoyed it.

– Your good form continued at the Sun Tour, where you finished on the podium. Did you expect to get such a good result?

Not really, but after doing well at the Tour Down Under I knew I had some good form and I was fairly confident that I could get a good result. But I didn’t quite think I would be on the podium at the end of the race.

– Later in the season, you had your best GC of the year in the Tour Alsace. Were you satisfied with this, or disappointed for missing the win for just six seconds?

I was really happy to get a result like that in a big race like Tour Alsace, as it was only my second road race in Europe. I was a little worried before the start that I might not be good enough for the level of racing in Europe, so afterwards, when I got that result, I was kinda relieved.

– In August, after some solid runs in the Italian one-day races, you were 12th in the Tour de l’Avenir. How was it?

My form at L’Avenir wasn’t that good, because it had been a long season. I had really good form at the very start of the year and I had build back up for Alsace and then I was struggling to hold my form from there and a couple of one-day races in Italy. So I wasn’t that happy with my ride, but at the end of the day 12th overall isn’t too bad considering I lost around 1:30 on the first climbing day when I had to give my bike to Robert Power on the climb, because his gears stopped working. This meant I lost contact with the front group and had to ride his bike for a bit until the team car got up there.

– Overall, how would you describe your season?

I think I had a really good season up until L’Avenir and the Worlds, where I didn’t quite perform how I would have liked to. But until then I was really happy with my season, it’s easily the best I have had so far. I think I improved in all areas, which have lead to the race results I got.

– And those results helped you turn pro with Orica-GreenEdge.

I won’t actually turn pro with them until 2016 and my contract will go until the end of 2017. I will hopefully do some races with them at the end of next year similar to the ones Caleb Ewan did. I got quite a bit of interest after Tour Down Under, but a lot of the teams wanted to wait and see how I would go in Europe. Orica-GreenEdge just offered me the best opportunity to develop, by having another year in U23 to learn and getting stronger before going pro. So hopefully when I do go pro I can step in and hopefully have quite a good first year similar to the Yates brothers.

– Before that, you’ll continue racing for Avanti. What personal goals will you have?

There isn’t really any more racing this year, but in 2015 I really want to do well at National Championships and hopefully get selected for the Tour Down Under again. If I could have next year a similar start to the one I had this year I would be super happy.

– Long-term, do you see yourself challenging also for one-day races, not only stage races?

I think I just really need to find my feet in the World Tour and develop as a rider, then start to fully focus on committing to trying to win races. I do love watching the one-day races and would love to ride there, but I think I would need to get quite a bit stronger before challenging for the win in them.

– What things would you like to improve in the future?

I would really like to improve my time trailing, as well as my ability to win out of a small bunches. So improving my sprinting, but also my tactics used in a sprint. I hope all these things will help me in the future to win a big one-day race, but also a Grand Tour.

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