Haig turns things around & shows maturity to claim his first stage victory of the season in Ruta delSat 22 Feb 2020
Bouncing back after yesterday’s disappointment, Australian climber Jack Haig showed his maturity and experience today, riding a tactically astute race to claim his first stage victory of the season on a hard penultimate stage in Ruta del Sol.
Riding with confidence after his consistent performances so far this season, Haig attacking over the top of the final first category climb with only two riders for company, race leader Jakob Fuglsang (Astana Pro Team) and second overall Mikel Landa (Bahrain-McLaren).
The trio battled it out for the stage victory into Granada, with Haig getting the better of the two in the sprint to take the victory and also regain valuable seconds to move himself up onto the podium with just one stage remaining.
18 start the day
In the first 20kilometres of the stage, 18 riders jumped off the front of the bunch and established the first breakaway, with the peloton allowing the large group to open up a lead of around two-minutes.
It was the race leading team Astana Pro Team that initially took control of the distance to the leaders, before Bahrain-McLaren came to the fore to help shoulder the workload.
By the time the peloton reached the final and decisive climb, the nine kilometre Alto de Purche averaging out at a 7.5% gradient, all of the breakaway riders had been swallowed up and the GC battle commenced.
Haig rides with confidence
One by one, riders dropped off the pace with Haig looking composed and remaining at the front as every kilometre passed. Half-way up the climb Fuglsang launched a strong attacked and consequently only six-riders could handle his injection of pace.
Towards the top, Brandon McNulty (UAE Emirates) attacked from the front group, which was now down to four riders, before Haig timed his effort well, making a move shortly after with 18kilometres to go, flying up and over the top of the climb.
Haig’s effort caught out McNulty, with only Fuglsang and Landa able to close the gap back to the Mitchelton-SCOTT rider, as the trio barrelled down the descent and towards the finish line, holding a lead of 30seconds over the chasers.
After constistent performances in Volta Valencia and the first three stages of the race, Haig knew the form was there and did his fair share of work, pushing the pace in an attempt to increase the gap and move himself up and onto the overall podium.
With one-kilometre to go, Haig attacked and tried to go solo but the strong duo wouldn’t give the Australian rider any freedom. Fuglsang immediately counter attacked, but Haig had enough to recover quickly, follow the move and stay in contention.
The sprint opened up and Haig bided his time, moving from out of the wheels and into the wind in the final moments, to power to his second professional victory ahead of the classy company.
The 26-year-old now goes into tomorrow’s final stage in third place overall, 35seconds behind Fuglsang and 14seconds behind Landa with just an individual time trial to go.
Jack Haig - Stage 4 Winner
"Taking the win against Fuglsang and Landa is quite important to me, they are the sort of riders I want to try and become, true Grand Tour contenders. So to be up there with them today was a really nice feeling and a reassuring feeling knowing I am heading in the right direction.
“After yesterday’s disappointment and being consistently up there in Valencia and after the first stages, to get the win was really really nice.
“Starting the season like this is similar, or maybe a little bit better than last year. Hopefully I can finish the job off tomorrow and then continue the good form.
“The time trial tomorrow looks incredibly technical, up and down and complicated so it will be hard but I think I have a decent little buffer now between myself and Ion Izaguirre (Astana) so hopefully I can hold onto third place.”
2020 Ruta del Sol - Stage 4 Results:
1. Jack Haig (Mitchelton-SCOTT) 3:07:35
2. Jakob Fuglsang (Astana Pro Team) ST
3. Mikel Landa (Bahrain-McLaren) ST
General Classification stage 4 results:
1. Jakob Fuglsang (Astana Pro Team) 17:30:01
2. Mikel Landa (Bahrain-McLaren) +0:14
3. Jack Haig (Mitchelton-SCOTT) +0:35
Photos courtesy of Getty Images