LOURDES, France (VN) — “It’s the Tour de France, man. You don’t give up,” Nathan Haas said, a smile on his face for the first time in nearly a week.
What a week it was.
You don’t give up, not even when waking up the morning of the Tour’s third stage, with well over 3,000 kilometers still ahead, feeling the need to use the restroom — shall we say — a few too many times.
Not even when, a few days later, the body begins to reject sustenance in both directions.
Not even when dropped on the flat stages. No giving up, man. This is the Tour.
“They’d have to drag me out of the race,” Haas, 26, said from the top of La Pierre-Saint-Martin, the Tour’s first real climb, less than 24 hours after a regimen of antibiotics and 18 hours of sleep over the rest day finally cured him of whatever illness had him struggling not just to keep up but to keep upright.
Haas’ first Tour de France, a distinction he fought for all season, went sideways at the start of stage 3. It stayed sideways through the first rest day.
“After stage 2, the next morning I woke up and had — well, this is a bit embarrassing — but I had diarrhea. The next day it was a little bit worse, then a little bit worse, and things just started to get really uncomfortable, and after the cobbles stage, you can could say, that made me rough in the gut,” the Australian said.
“I was still feeling really strong at that point but then stage 6, it was like the fuel tank was completely empty, and it was at that point I was actually starting to vomit in the race, so we realized that it wasn’t just a little bug it was something a bit more serious.”
Haas started antibiotics, just one of multiple measures Cannondale’s medical staff took to bring him back into the race. He made it through stage 7, then through stage 8, which saw him take big pulls for teammate Dan Martin before sliding off the back of the field, and through the team time trial.
When the rest day arrived, few, if any, riders needed it more.
“I had a 12-hour sleep overnight, got up, had some breakfast, went back to bed for two hours, did 40 minutes on the rollers and then slept four hours again in the afternoon,” Haas said. “It didn’t feel like an effort, just what the body wanted.”
On Tuesday afternoon, atop the Tour’s first major climb, Haas sat on the trainer slowly spinning his legs out. With the illness behind him, a more-familiar Nathan Haas, something of a class clown, had returned. In his own words, his “spirit” was back.
“We had awesome medical staff and an awesome chef making me really simple foods that were easy to digest, so it’s been a bit of work but I think — I think — after today I’ve got a bit more spirit,” he said.
Now, the next goal: finish his first Tour de France.
“Either you get time cut, or you get hurt so bad you’re put in a car that takes you home,” he said. “That’s the only way you leave the Tour.”