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Nathan Haas making the most of neo-pro opportunity

September 6, 2012

Nathan Haas (Garmin-Sharp) at the end of the 2012 USA Pro Challenge, in Denver

Last November Nathan Haas expected some big changes. He met 29 new teammates. He looked forward to racing his new Cervélo bike on four continents, most of the time over 16,000 kilometers away from his home in Brisbane Australia. But even he likely didn’t imagine how much his world would evolve over the following nine months.

Haas rode in 2011 for the Australian Genesys Wealth Advisors Team – his first full-time year on the bike – and moved up to Garmin-Sharp as a neo-pro for the 2012 season. He left his family in the days after Christmas to join the team and hasn’t set foot home in Australia since. It’s the longest period ever away from home for Haas, and that experience in itself has stretched him.

Chasing Mt. Baldy break in 2012 Tour of California, Nathan Haas (Garmin-Barracuda, now Garmin-Sharp) second wheel

“I think mentally it was a big jump for me to move to Europe,” Haas said in Denver on the last day of the USA Pro Challenge. “…I think I’ve been really learning some life skills and I think I’m really on top of things mentally now, and I’ve learned just how much spiritually you need to be happy to be able to do all of this…”

The biggest difference a year has made for Haas has been the switch from a small team to one of the biggest teams in the sport. Last year he was winning bike races and teammates worked for him. This year he’s working for teammates he described as the best riders in the world, and in the process learning and improving.

“It’s absolutely incredible…how much more of a sort of across the board rider I’ve become now in terms of tactics and knowing how to work as a teammate as opposed to the person that everybody works for, it’s a big difference. It’s been a real pleasure this year to do it…” He believes he’s also grown physiologically as he’s been competing with a “deeper pool” than he raced with in general last year.

Being professional

Haas labeled himself as “a little bit immature in my professionalism” when he joined his new team. He cited among others, teammates Christian Vande Velde and Dave Zabriskie as “exceptional role models” that have helped him learn what it means to be professional.

Daved Towle with Garmin-Sharp’s Peter Stetina, David Zabriskie, and Nathan Haas (l to r) in Tour of Utah presentation

Being professional, Haas said, affects just about every detail of his life as a neo-pro: “…how to treat your time training, how to treat your time racing, and everything in-between and that’s from how to keep your suitcase to how to pack your rain bag. All these small lessons that are compiling up to be something that next year is going to be a lot easier,” he said.

Living as a professional cyclist means in summary, “making your life about the bike.” It comes down to awareness about which option among the simplest of choices will help him ride better. It means relaxing during downtime. It means staying at home off the legs instead of going out to dinner, a choice that would challenge any man in his early twenties.

Next challenge

Now feeling he’s tamed the neo-pro’s challenges, he said, “…my legs are starting to come good in the end of the season.”

Haas became a sensation at 22 years-old when his legs achieved amazing results last year to win the five-day Jayco Herald Sun Tour and the Japan Cup in October.

Nathan Haas (Garmin-Sharp) in Denver after Stage 7 of the USA Pro Challenge

He’s hoping to repeat his late season success this year at the Tour of Britain. The eight stages that traverse 1,350 kilometers begin on September 9th.

“It’s actually a lot like the Herald Sun Tour in the sense that there’s hills but they are not mountains. Strong riders win it and opportunists win these types of races,” Haas said. “I always find my feet at the end of the year and I’m really hoping to go in hitting the ground running.”

Lars Boom (Rabobank) won a rainy Tour of Britain last year; Michael Albasini and Edvald Boasson Hagen, both riding for the HTC/Colombia team, preceded Boom as victors of the 2010 and 2009 editions, respectively.

After the Tour of Britain Haas will have some time to plan a bit of a musical performance for the next team camp with teammate Jack Bauer; Haas plays saxophone and Bauer plays bass. Haas’ love for music, including his absolute favorite collections, Dark Side of the Moon by Pink Floyd and In Silico by the Australian band Pendulum, is something that’s remained unchanged by the neo-pro experience.

Nathan Haas (third from left) celebrating the team time trial win with the Garmin-Sharp 2012 Tour of Utah squad

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