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American Chad Haga is enjoying his second experience at the Giro d’Italia — an opportunity he may have missed entirely after he and a group of his teammates were hit head-on by a car during the Giant-Alpecin team training camp in January.
The crash put Haga in the hospital, and left him with a long road to recovery, as well as a distinctive pink scar down his neck.
Once back on the bike, Haga dialed in and focused on getting fit in time for the Giro.
Now, after a week spent with team leader Tom Dumoulin in and out of the race leader’s maglia rosa, Haga is focused on Sunday’s 40km time trial through Chianti.
Dumoulin may be considered the favorite to win the time trial, which is being dubbed the “Chianti Classico Stage,” but Haga, a skilled time trialist, is hoping for a good result. (He has top 10 TT results at stage races such as Vuelta a Burgos, Baloise Belgium Tour, and the Amgen Tour of California.)
Haga began the Giro race with a strong performance in the opening time trial, finishing 12th, 16 seconds behind Dumoulin.
“[Stage 9] is earmarked in my road book,” Haga said earlier this week. “I mean, there is never an easy day, but there are ways to save a little bit of energy.”
The rolling time trial through the Tuscan countryside will by no means be a stroll in the park for the peloton. The route includes virtually no flat roads, and despite the significant amount of climbing, the wind will also play a factor as the course weaves through the Italian vineyards.
Haga kicked off his Giro campaign in Apeldoorn with a mere 12 days of racing in his legs, racing all three Ardennes Classics and the Tour du Romandie, the latter of which included a start list packed with Giro and Tour de France contenders.
Prior to the Giro, Haga mentioned it would be a “dream” to defend the maglia rosa. That dream came true, and Haga has soaked up the experience.
“It was great to have the responsibility of having the maglia rosa and it was great we got to be at the front,” Haga told CyclingTips before the start of stage 3, in Nijmegen. “It was hectic out there and so we were given a bit more respect than usual at the head of the peloton and got to just sort of take in the moment and see what looked like millions of people out on the road. It seemed we saw all of the Netherlands.”
After Sunday’s time trial, and depending on Dumoulin’s result, Haga could again be defending the maglia rosa as the race enters its second week.
“I’ll have opportunities on chasing breakaways, and to go for it in the time trials,” Haga said. “I’ll also be support on the sprint stages, and if Tom [Dumoulin] is going well, we can give him some support on the climbing stages.”
More than anything, Haga’s just happy to be racing again, and not still on the couch, in the hospital — or much worse.