Instead, he’s saving his legs for a shot at winning the final-day time trial in Verona.
“No day is easy in the Giro, but I am trying to save as much as possible before the final time trial,” Haga said Thursday morning at the start.
The 30-year-old American believes his best chance to win his first career grand tour stage comes Sunday in the 17km race against the clock.
“The breakaways are having success, but they’re a bit of a lottery and there’s always going to be better climbers than me,” he noted. “My best chance for a result is the final time trial in Verona, so I am going all-in for that.”
Haga came to this Giro expecting to work for Tom Dumoulin and sacrifice everything for another chance to win the pink jersey. When the Dutchman crashed out in the first week, Sunweb recalibrated its plans.
“It was a 100 percent change,” Haga said of Dumoulin’s exit. “Our ambitions are not gone. We came here in top form to fight for the GC win. We still have the legs, so we had to reframe the Giro as an opportunity.”
Haga has developed into an essential teammate to Dumoulin and was part of the 2017 Giro-winning team. With his growing experience, Haga debuted in the Tour de France last year, and he was back alongside Dumoulin for another run at pink in Bologna.
“Dumoulin would have been in the mix,” Haga said. “It’s impossible to say what would have happened, but he was showing good form, and his season was built around this. He would have made the race more exciting.”
Haga came to the Giro with top form, and it showed in the San Marino time trial when he rode to sixth in his best TT result in the WorldTour.
“That gave me confidence to start to think about Verona,” he said. “I think I could already get a great result but the win Sunday isn’t out of consideration.”
With Dumoulin out of the frame, Haga’s been thinking about the 17km time trial course in Verona. And instead of working for a captain or chasing breakaways, Haga’s been biding his time.
“Tom’s absence allows me to save myself because I’ve done good TTs in the past, but those results were always in the course of doing my job for him,” he said. “Now I can deliberately save myself.”
His rivals? The usual suspects, with the twist that a time trial at the end of three weeks can deliver surprises.
Haga said GC favorites such as Primoz Roglic (Jumbo-Visma) and Vincenzo Nibali (Bahrain-Merida), riders who typically post strong time trials, should be more fatigued after fighting hard for the pink jersey for three weeks.
“Roglic would normally beat me, and he still might, but it’s been a hard week for all those GC guys,” he said. “They’re fighting every day all the way to the line, so I am hoping this last week can be a bit of an equalizer.”
Haga figures there are about 10 riders who will be fighting for the stage win.
“The final time trial of a grand tour is about who has the legs,” he said. “I see what [Campenaerts] is doing and that we’re finishing together, so it’s pretty clear he is trying to save himself.”
Haga is hoping Sunday his legs can deliver a strong ride to finish off the Giro.