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Q&A: Chad Haga on new challenges and ambitions with Team Sunweb

Texan speaks of hopes and expectations for the season, family life, and testing his time trial on Zwift.

With the restarted WorldTour season coming into view, American Chad Haga has been piecing together his updated 2020 race plans with his Sunweb team.

It was confirmed Wednesday that the Texan was included on the team’s Vuelta a España long-list, and was a standby rider for this summer’s Tour de France. The Giro d’Italia stage winner is also slated to be starting hilly classics Il Lombardia and Amstel Gold Race.

Now in his sixth season with the Giant/Sunweb squad, the 31-year-old adds experience and a cool head to a team packed with developing young riders.

VeloNews caught up with Haga after Team Sunweb confirmed its initial rosters for the restarted 2020 season to talk about his time in lockdown, new challenges at the classics, and his growing role as a senior rider at his team.

VeloNews: Chad we last spoke at the Tour de la Provence in February. That seems like another world from here now, since the coronavirus crisis hit. What was your situation? Were you in lockdown?

Chad Haga: Well my wife and I decided to hunker down in Girona and just weather the storm here instead of facing the cost and stress and possible sickness of traveling back to the U.S. And now as we see, even the possible return from the U.S. But that meant 50 days of me on the trainer in the garage until I was allowed out again. But we got through it well.

Plus we had our daughter Elena to keep us busy and gave us something to invest our time in. But we came through it well, and now that I have been able to train outside again, I feel pretty fit.

VN: What was your longest indoor ride?

CH: I did one four-hour ride per week and averaged probably 16-17 hours per week. So I was able to maintain my fitness. It wasn’t like I was starting from zero either. I had good condition going into lockdown.

VN: As a time trialist I reckon you are pretty accustomed to using a home trainer.

CH: Yeah well, I have to admit that I don’t enjoy really intense stuff. But I like the sweet spot, sub-threshold stuff pretty well. As a time trialist, my tactic was to pick a loop on Zwift where I really had to push it to make it in the time. So it was a bit like doing a time trial.

At 31-years-old, Haga is a relative veteran at Team Sunweb. Photo: James Startt

VN: You are currently scheduled to do the Il Lombardia and the Amstel Gold Race before the Vuelta a España. What are your expectations?

CH: Well I really like both Amstel and Lombardia, and am hoping to do well. I’ve never been a specialist in one-day racing but those are races I can do well in if I really train for them. And this is as good a year as any to give it a try. But to be honest, I am not putting too much stock in the schedule that I do have. The season is going to be so short and intense. And there will be roster changes all the time I think. So I am just aiming to stay fit and be ready when the calls come.

VN: And what about the Vuelta? There is only one time trial there, so I am assuming that is not why you opted to go to Spain? What will your role be in Spain?

CH: Well I would firstly be as a support rider, depending on the final roster. Or if our goals are more open, then I would go for stages.

VN: Well, there are always about two or three races on any given stage there, and big breaks often get away. So there is ample opportunity.

CH: Yeah for sure. And then the other advantage is that it is geographically close to where my wife and daughter are, so if a second wave of COVID-19 does break out, then I won’t be far away.

VN: Your Sunweb team has also announced that there will several developing riders going to the Vuelta. So I imagine you would have a bit of a mentoring role as well?

CH: I’m sure there would be. I’ve got 10 grand tours under my belt so with any riders doing their first grand tour I would definitely be leaned on to coach them through the low moments especially.

VN: Is that something you enjoy doing?

CH: Well as an introvert, I am not the most outgoing or forthcoming with advice and stuff, but if they asked me to do it, well, I do recognize that I have a wealth of experience. They just have to pry it out of me! But it is a role that I am adjusting to as I am becoming one of the older guys on the team!

VNL You are only 31. You are not that old yet.

CH: Oh, on this team I am!