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"This is the race where it all started for me and to come back to the race and be back in yellow…today is actually a bigger day for me than taking yellow. It's my first win as a professional with Garmin-Sharp," Haas says

Photo: Sirotti

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06.02.2014 @ 10:00 Posted by Emil Axelgaard

After a two-year absence, Nathan Haas (Garmin-Sharp) is back at the Jayco Herald Sun Tour where he made his major breakthrough by taking the overall win in 2011. After today's stage win in the first road stage, he is back in the leader's jersey and was pretty emotional about being back at the event where it all started for him.

 

Garmin-Sharp continued to flex its collective muscle on the roads of Victoria, as former race champion Nathan Haas held off all-comers in a long, uphill bunch sprint to claim stage one of the Jayco Herald Sun Tour in Ballarat. After Kiwi teammate Jack Bauer snared the Jayco Herald Sun Yellow Jersey for the American WorldTour outfit in Wednesday evening’s city centre prologue, Haas assumed the leaders mantle with his powerful display up Sturt Street.

 

For the 2011 Jayco Herald Sun Tour champion, the stage win was his first as a professional in Garmin-Sharp colours, and a victory he said he owed to confidence gained from his strong Tour Down Under performance two weeks ago.

 

“I know that my form’s good now and confidence comes with that,” 24-year-old Haas said. “So [the Tour Down Under] was a nice litmus test for this race, which really is to me probably my most favourite race in the world.

 

"This is the race where it all started for me and to come back to the race and be back in yellow…today is actually a bigger day for me than taking yellow. It's my first win as a professional with Garmin Sharp," he added. "I didn't quite believe that I actually won. I went over the line double checking that there was no one there and the tears came pretty quick after that."

 

While buoyed by the victory, Haas revealed his role across the closing stages of the race had been to deliver teammate and national criterion champion Steele Von Hoff to the line.

 

“He was going to take my wheel through that final section, and one of the fantastic things about Steele is that he really thinks about the bigger picture in the sprint," he said. “Obviously he saw the door open for me and he didn’t get on it so he left the gap and then I went.”

 

Crossing in front of Orica-GreenEDGE’s powerhouse sprinter Matthew Goss and Drapac Professional Cycling’s fast-man Jonathan Cantwell in the bunch sprint, Haas earned a ten second time bonus and subsequently now holds a seven second advantage at the top of the general classification standings.

Haas heads teammate Bauer, with prologue podium finisher William Clarke of Drapac Porsche a further two seconds adrift.

 

Orica-GreenEDGE’s Simon Gerrans moved into the race top-ten, now placed ninth overall and 13 seconds behind race leader Haas, after finishing eighth on the opening road stage into Ballarat.

 

Earlier in the race, the peloton had split on the Glenmore Hill where an 18-rider group had formed. Haas was convinced that the hard racing had made it possible for him to beat the sprinters at the end.

 

"The steep climb, we noticed that GreenEdge were trying to control it and we really felt the wind getting up and I think Avanti had done some recon so I noticed that they were also moving up and we knew that it was going to be smack down," he said. "It turned into a group of 20 and we rode it for a while but it wasn't meant to be and I think peoples legs were pretty tired after that."

 

It was an emotional Haas that spoke after the stage victory, confident his team had the arsenal to defend the jersey right through until the final stage on Arthur’s Seat.

"With a prologue where everyone is within a second of each other going down to 80th its an imperative to get that time on the line if you want to stay in the jersey or even if you want to take control for the GC of the race," he said. “I’ve got a lot of confidence at the moment that I can do it, and I’ve got even more confidence that the team’s going to give me the opportunity to keep doing it.

 

“We’re here to win this race and it really suits us to the ground.”

 

He faces his first big jersey defence in tomorrow's 165km stage from Ballarat to Bendigo that sends the riders up the category 1 Mount Alexander 50km from the finish. However, a fast descent and flat run-in to the finish means that some kind of sprint is expected at the end.

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