Nathan Haas Q&A: ready for his debut with Katusha-Alpecin
With his first race in the Katusha-Alpecin colours due on 4 January 2018, we speak with Nathan Haas and find out how he’s adjusting to the team change, what he expects from his first TT on a new Canyon bike, what he thinks about SRAM red… and a few other topics.
This isn’t the first time RIDE has interviewed Nathan Haas – and it certainly won’t be the last. Each time we talk, however, the discussion ends up transcribed verbatim in a Q&A format. He’s a verbatim kind of guy.
He says it how he sees it. He’s not afraid to speak his mind. And it’s this kind of honesty that prompts us to keep going back for more.
Next time, I’ll write a narrative – that’s what I tell him each time. But, yet again, it’s going to appear as a Q&A… because he managed to cover the few points raised in a succinct manner with answers many cycling fans should find interesting.
Nathan was kind enough to arrange for some photos to be sent featuring him in his new team colours. The images were taken by Laura Fletcher and we’re most grateful to have them. There are also some photos of Nathan in Katusha Sport kit. This outfit, it’s worth noting, is not in the colours of the trade team but Katusha is now in the clothing market and producing a range of quality cycling wear that you can buy.
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– Click the SoundCloud file to listen to the interview with Rob Arnold and/or read the transcript below. –
Click the link above to listen to the interview.
RIDE: It’s the first Wednesday of the year and Nathan Haas is in an airport lounge and he is about to head off to Melbourne, I assume. Is that where you’re going?
Nathan Haas: “Yep. First Melbourne and then driving to Ballarat, so it’s kind of: the New Year starts. The break went so quick. It’s the third day of the year and I’m off racing.
“It’s kind of good to get moving though.”
…Let’s just go through a different sequence of topics if we can because it’s a new year, you’ve got limited time and we’ll just rip into a couple of different points of discussion. What do you think?
“Let’s do it. Let’s hit it.”
Okay. Katusha: it feels like home already or what?
“It was sort of funny, you know. I signed pretty early last year so, as soon as my team (from 2017, Dimension Data) found out that I wasn’t staying, I was in the half-way house.
“I was not really in Dimension Data anymore and I wasn’t quite yet at Katusha so [there] was quite a while when I felt like I was sort of floating a little bit…
“We didn’t have our first team camp until quite late in December so I didn’t really get a chance to feel like I was on Katusha until December and then we jumped straight into this incredible team camp. And it was one of the most natural feelings I’ve felt in terms of going to a team.
“I think my expectations and feelings on cycling have changed after six years as a professional. You know, the polish has worn off somewhat and I’m not necessarily at team camps to go get pissed and make new friends. For me the team [environment] is a place to sort of have a great group of people to work with but to execute your goals.
“And it was just so on par with how I think in terms of how things need to be professional but fine at the same time. As soon as I jumped into the squad, it just felt awesome.
“All the directors, all the staff, and all the riders… it was just like a really cool feeling of… I guess, to say it in simple terms, professionalism. But there’s like a quiet confidence that goes with an organisation that seems to get things done in the cycling world. And that’s how it felt; it felt like the start of a season where things just get done.”
Haas getting in some early-season training kilometres – wearing Katusha Sport kit in advance of his first year with the Katusha-Alpecin team.
Photo: Laura Fletcher
I’ll ask more about your team-mates once you’ve raced with them, I guess. But, moving right along to the next topic: I understand you’re doing the time trial as well as the road race at the nationals. Tell me about that.
“Yeah, so it’s the first time I’ll do it ever in the elite men.
“I don’t want to talk down on any previous equipment but when you get an opportunity to ride on a bike as fast as Canyon – and having had a team take the time in the wind tunnel and velodrome to get you as fast as you possible can [be] in a bike position… it’s sort of one of those things where I’ve felt that, if I had that resource, I would want to be able to see what I can do with it.
“It’s an area in which I can grow so much – my time trialling.
“In races like Eneco Tour or even races like Tirreno-Adriatico, where my climbing and my road racing has been within top-10 placings, but I’ll lose two minutes in a time trial… so it’s a big focus of mine this year now I have some equipment and also the resources, making sure I’m as aero as possible, I want to hone in on it.
“I don’t want to get stale after six years always relying on a sprint at the end of a hard day.
“I want to learn how to race my bike and be able to have a few extra tools there. So, increasing my time trial ability is something I want to practice.
“You know, 42 kilometres in the time trial is going to be horrible at this time of year in the heat so I just want to set a good baseline for myself. I don’t have any expectations on a result or any kind of idea of where I’ll sit in terms of the group…
“The top three guys, they’re all totally world-class with Richie [Porte], Rohan [Dennis] and [Luke] Durbridge, so I don’t have any crazy dream or aspirations of a result but for me it’s actually practicing the process and trying to just become a better all-round rider.”
Okay. Um, how do you get aero with calves like yours?
[Laughs] “Well, are they calves? I thought they’d grown to cows by now.
“Actually, I’m kind of lucky because I’ve have a stocky body but I’m not very long, so I can kind of curl myself up into a bit of a ball on the bike. And because I don’t actually have that much body mass – [compared with] how, sort of, big I am – we calculated out that I have a pretty fast position.
“But I’ve got some pretty wide shoulders and some wide calves so I’m sure, if I could trim those down a bit, I could go a bit faster.”
Ride bike, clean bike. So pro…!
Photo: Laura Fletcher
That was a topic I wasn’t planning on talking about. I was going to talk to you about equipment but you’ve covered that with Canyon quickly. That’s the aero (time trial) bike. Talk to me about shifting from Shimano to SRAM and what you’ve found from the Red eTap, are you enjoying it?
“Oh, I love SRAM because they’re the innovators.
“Shimano is the company that always perfected things. Their stuff always feels super silky, super light, and it looks super stylish.
“But the thing I like about SRAM is: they’ve always changed the game. Ever since I was mountain biking, you know?
“They had the GripShift and they had the different kind of paddle shift.
“Shimano kept that same system over and over and over again. SRAM was always trying to innovate and make things either more ergonomic or just kind of work in a different way. And then when they first went to road bikes, I was lucky… on Genesis we had SRAM and beautiful Zipp wheels, so we had a cool combo. But [SRAM] had the paddle shift system (on the mechanical shifting option of Red) where you could bring the gear lever into your hand on the handlebars, so when you’re sprinting you just had to roll your fist in to change gears.
“It’s just [because of] tiny little things like that I’ve always had so much respect for SRAM, because they’re just doing something different.
“Again, they’ve kind of killed Shimano electric [shifting], in a way, by going wireless and having one side that shifts harder and one side that shifts easier, kind of like Formula-One paddle shifting. It feels so intuitive once you get used to it.
“It feels like gears should be on a bike.
“For me, I’m pretty excited to be back on SRAM.
“I think SRAM will admit that their shifting wouldn’t feel silky-smooth; I think ‘agricultural’ is a good word, but the thing I really like about it is you know what gear you’re in. It’s always like, ‘Doooonk, dooooonk, dooooonk’. It’s a bit more like having Campagnolo but then with an electric, wireless kind of awesomeness to it. For me I love being on SRAM. And the other components that come along with being on SRAM, like the Zipp wheels… I think Zipp is one of the best wheel companies in the whole world so we’re pretty lucky.”
Have story, will tell it. For more from Nathan just search ‘ridemedia’ and ‘Haas’.
Photo: Laura Fletcher
Moving right along. Back to racing. Green and gold jersey? Or ochre jersey? What’s your preference for January?
[Laughs] “I want to be the old ball that comes down and takes them all. I would happily take either but I don’t have any crazy expectations this summer.
“It’s been a very different build-up to what I’ve had in the past.
“I only had 47 or 48 race days last year. I had a super busy time until the Giro and then the team sort of found out I wasn’t going to stay so I didn’t really get raced much.
“I expect to miss a little bit on the high end and, also, staying in Europe for so long and not being as used to the heat…
“I’ve done lots of good work but I’m not raving on where my form is right now. It’s sort of a wait-and-see. I also don’t have a team at the nationals to control anything so I kind of just have to play and be the opportunist.
“If something cool happens, it happens but the big goals are actually leaning in later in the year over in Europe.”
How frustrating is fourth place?
“Well, you know, actually it’s a funny feeling.
“I was fourth at Amstel but I was definitely not the fourth strongest. I was easily the third strongest. When the final attack went with [Philippe] Gilbert, [Michal] Kwiatkowski and myself on the last climb with four kilometres to go, we kind of left the group for dead. And then it was only Gilbert’s counter-attack that actually kind of unseeded me.
“In my mind, I was the third strongest in that race. And then I was beaten by [Michael] Albasini because he’s the master of small group sprints [from] the next group…
“It sounds silly but I was actually quite happy to not be on the podium; I could just go straight to my bus and feel good about a good race. But I think I would have been frustrated to be on the podium feeling like I was actually so close.
“Fourth isn’t actually so bad. You can still kind of be the silent assassin and keep it low-key until one day you win.”
Okay. It’s good to see the positives from what other people may see as negatives. I’m impressed.
“I’m not making it up. I did actually feel that after Amstel. I was pretty happy to roll around to my bus and gently die on the couch.”
…I’ve got one more question.
Am I able to publish this as a Q&A?
“Yeah. Of course.”
“I don’t know if I swore, but if I did swear maybe you can edit that out.”
No swearing. Only good answers. It’s always a pleasure talking with you. I look forward to catching up with you in Adelaide at the Tour Down Under and I wish you all the best for the next couple of days. And, to be continued – as always Nathan Haas.
– Interview by Rob Arnold