Cycling is all in the cards for Cannondale-Garmin’s Nathan Haas

Australian mountain-biker-turned-roadie-turned-rocker is launching a brand-new pro cycling card game prior to his first start at Le Tour

SYDNEY — Canberra’s Nathan Haas is a different kind of cat, so to speak.

When the Australian mountain biker-turned-road cyclist isn’t pounding the pedals over the pavement for Cannondale-Garmin, he can often be found on his YouTube channel crooning over cover songs, including Nick Cave and the Bad Sees’ hit “The Ship Song” with his sister Ellie Haas.

But now, the two-time Japan Cup winner (2014 and 2011), who is currently locked away in an apartment with his American teammate Andrew Talansky at 6,500 feet above sea level in Andorra, preparing for his first Tour de France start, is singing a different tune with the launch of an all-new pro cycling card game cleverly titled “Attack the Pack.”

Created by photographer Ben Broomfield and web agency manager Ben Nickolls, who both possess an affinity for cycling, the game “brings the experience of a professional bike race to your jersey pocket!” according to its official media release with a link to the project’s Kickstarter campaign that is scheduled for distribution in September.

The object of the game is for a user to deploy a team of riders against their opponents and attack the peloton, create a winning breakaway, and finally sprint to the finish.

The media release questions gamers with tantalizing scenarios. Such as: “Will you collude with your opponents, backing them up until the final sprint? Will you conspire against them, building an alliance and leaving them trailing in your wake? Or will you just go hell-for-leather from the starting line, trusting everyone else to do the dirty work?”

“We’re doing the three grand tours this year: design at the Giro, launching at the Tour and shipping to customers at the Vuelta. We wonder what Oleg Tinkov would think of that,” stated Nickolls in the release, referring to the Tinkoff-Saxo owner’s affinity for cycling’s ‘triple crown.’

Haas was introduced to the project through mutual friends and now serves as the spokesman after lending his expertise to ensure the game’s authenticity.

“Instead of having a deck of cards that is random in play by the order of how the deck is played, this is a self-determined, strategic, multiple-player game,” Haas told VeloNews. “You can either help or hinder your opponents.

“It’s the same dynamic in pro cycling in that in a break you are always working together to stay ahead of the pack, and vice-versa if you are in the peloton and working with others to bring back the breakaway to then try to set up an attack over the top of them with the moves and different cuts that come into play.”

Winner of the 2011 Herald Sun Tour and 2012 Tour of Britain, Haas is no stranger to successful strategies on the parcours. The 26-year-old finished fifth at the 2014 Tour Down Under behind Richie Porte (Team Sky), Diego Ulissi (Lampre-Merida), Cadel Evans, and three-time race winner Simon Gerrans (Orica-GreenEdge).

Even with a third at the inaugural Cadel Evans Great Ocean Road Race (UCI 1.1), a fifth at Circuit Cycliste Sarthe-Pays de la Loire (2.1) and a sixth at De Brabantse Pijl-La Flèche Brabançonne (1.HC) this season, Haas has also suffered his share of bad luck, too — something he told VeloNews the game has in spades.

“There are obstacles in the game — like getting a flat tire — that sets you back a few steps,” explained Haas. “It totally simulates pro cycling, and the best part is that it’s over in a matter of minutes.

“It’s just a perfect thing to pull up at a coffee shop ride and pull out a deck of cards over a warm brew and throw yourself into a real-life bike race.”

As for the real real-life bike racing, Haas admits that just like the card game; it’s forever changing.

“The passion is always evolving,” explained Haas. “The goal posts constantly change when you try to become a professional. First you want to get a contract …then you get one. Then you want to be in the races … then you want to start winning them. Then a start at the grand tour … then you want a to win a stage race.

“What’s so cool about cycling is that there are so many races and so many levels, and if you stay passionate about it you will find a very happy place within the sport.”

As for his first Tour?

“I’m just trying to stay cool at this point,” said Haas. “I’ve been locked away with Talansky and we are just training away, eating good food and trying to keep our heads relaxed before the big show — it’s how I like to do it.”

Aaron S. Lee is a cycling and triathlon columnist for Eurosport and a guest contributor to VeloNews.