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Chad Haga Journal: A busy off-season

Editor’s note: Chad Haga races for Giant-Alpecin, and will be contributing rider journals to VeloNews throughout the upcoming season. The 26-year-old American has been racing professionally since 2011. In 2014, he finished his first grand tour, the Vuelta a España. 

Suffice it to say that mine was not a well-traveled road to the ProTour, but I wouldn’t have had it any other way.

A little over four years ago, I was struggling to stay awake through my afternoon classes. It may have been related to the VO2 intervals I did in the three-hour gap between classes and the large bowl of pasta that followed. Certainly my professor’s dry and monotonous lecture failed to stave off the impending hour of head-nodding.

My evenings were spent at the computer lab, typing away at a seemingly endless final report for our senior design project. Nothing kills the joy of writing like a tedious design report.

I managed to keep the art of writing alive in my mind in the form of race reports. Whether collegiate or not, on road, track, or dirt, my weekends were spent at bike races. At first, I just sent them to my parents to keep them updated about what I was doing. Then, I started sending my reports to teammates as well. When I graduated and began racing full-time, I kept it up with a blog as I hit the domestic circuit and then made it to the big leagues. Then, I somehow managed daily posts for the whole of my first Grand Tour.

Velo‘s editor in chief, Neal Rogers, liked my writing and saw an opportunity to pay me for what I’d always given away for free, and now here I am! I’ll wait for the check to clear before I tell him just how little traffic I was getting on my blog.

Some of you may be familiar with my story, so I won’t rehash it all here. My first year of racing at the highest level was a baptism-by-fire, but I had a blast and loved every minute of it (especially now that I’ve had time to forget the less-enjoyable moments).

Since getting back to American soil in late October, I’ve barely had a minute of boredom, making it fly by all too quickly.

First, I journeyed to Moab, Utah for a weekend of fun with a group of Aggie friends (whoop!) and experienced the limitless grip that is sandstone.

After that, I headed to Tijuana for my second build with More Than Sport and Homes of Hope, leaving with buckets of memories and some great new friends. On the first night of the trip, our group played a game of soccer. When you put that many professional athletes on a field, there’s no “off” switch. It didn’t matter that soccer is as awkward for most of us as fixed-gears are for non-cyclists, we went full throttle. It ended as you’d expect, with a row of professional cyclists slumped along a brick wall, massaging myriad minor injuries. But that’s what the off-season is for, right?

After a cold start to training in Colorado, I fled to Texas. I spent another weekend mountain biking with friends, camping beneath an awesome meteor shower. Deep in the heart of Texas, those stars at night were just so big and bright … somebody really should write a song about them. Then, I spent a week training in Austin with Lawson Craddock and our two new American teammates, Caleb Fairly and Carter Jones.

When I wasn’t playing on bikes with friends and teammates, I managed to find other ways to stay busy: patterning a leather wallet with a panorama of Lucca, reading, opening an IRA like a real grown-up, and practicing the piano. Just about the only thing left to do was meet a girl. Then I did that, too.

I’m indescribably excited about this next year of racing, building on the form and knowledge I gained in 2014. It’s the time of year where I set some goals for myself, but at the moment I don’t even know where to start! Maybe I can use an upcoming five-hour ride to figure it out. What I do know is that I’ll be starting my season in Australia, bringing Texas to the Down Under with my compatriot, Lawson, and I can’t wait to pin that first number on my new Giant-Alpecin jersey.

It’s sure to be an eventful year, and I look forward to bringing the VeloNews readers along for the ride. I’ve read Phil’s [Gaimon] rider journal and noticed the direct correlation between his outspoken love for cookies and the arrival of boxes of cookies at races, so you can expect to hear a lot about pianos from me.

I don’t know how you’ll deliver pianos to my race hotels, but that’s for you to figure out. I’m just the entertainment.