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Chad Haga blasted through the Giro's opening time...

Haga at the Giro: Survival comes first

The American said his cram session to prepare for the Giro d'Italia after his January training crash is taking a toll on his legs.

As the Giro d’Italia approached, Chad Haga pulled the training equivalent of an all-nighter. He crammed though March and April, attempting to boost his fitness high enough to tackle a grand tour. He made it, but only just. Now, all that metaphorical 3 a.m. Red Bull is catching up to him.

Haga of Giant – Alpecin rode to an impressive 18th in Sunday’s Chianti time trial, finishing one second ahead of Vincenzo Nibali. But he wanted more. The legs weren’t there, he said. The TT was an opportunity to take a step toward a true arrival as a time trial contender. Fatigue from the previous four stages pushed his power down.

“I think I had the best ride possible with the legs that I had,” he said of Sunday’s hilly ride through Chianti’s vineyards. “Looking at my power on the climbs, my form has fallen off significantly over the last four days. I’m pretty worn out, beyond a week of racing.”

That’s no real surprise. Weeks off the bike in late January and early February don’t tend to provide perfect form in May. Haga’s harrowing training crash, which sent him to the hospital for days, put his early season behind schedule. He had too few race days before the Giro’s Dutch start to hit the form he wanted.

With nine stages covered, less than halfway through the Italian tour, Haga will now drop into survival mode for a few days. Monday’s rest day is perfectly timed.

“I’m hoping I can save as much energy as possible and bounce back later on,” Haga said. “If I can get through tomorrow, then I have a couple easier days, although they’re going to be long. I’m hoping I can bounce back well enough in those.”

It’s tough work, defending a pink jersey. Now that Tom Dumoulin has relinquished control and stated publicly that he plans to lose time on purpose so that he can hunt stages in the final week, some of the pressure will fall off his teammates. That includes Haga.

The entire squad now seeks to recover and then step into breakaway mode. Last year, Haga jumped into a successful move on the 18th stage. He has his eye on upcoming stages with similar profiles. He likes a route with a late climb, but without an uphill finish. Uphill finishes don’t suit his tall, time trialist frame. Stages 13, 14, and 18 all fit the bill.

“I’ll definitely have the freedom to chase results and go for it,” he said. “We’ll just have to see what the legs say each day.”