Haga content with debut season riding for Giant-Shimano

Chad Haga says he's more than happy with how his rookie season went with Giant-Shimano, including his grand tour debut at the Vuelta

Photo: Casey B. Gibson

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Chad Haga was like a sponge throughout his rookie season in 2014, soaking up everything he could during his first year in the bigs with Giant-Shimano.

After two productive seasons on the U.S. scene with Optum-Kelly Benefit Strategies, Haga made a relatively seamless transition to the WorldTour.

For Haga, who reached the top level of the peloton through the collegiate racing circuit, joining Giant-Shimano was like Bike Racing 101.

“It’s been really staggering, much more than I could have hoped for,” Haga said. “I didn’t get the win that I was hoping for, but I learned a lot, and I am really looking forward to next year.”

Haga joined Giant-Shimano along with compatriot and fellow Texan Lawson Craddock to give the international squad a promising U.S. presence. Craddock, too, enjoyed a successful debut season with the team, including a third-place finish and best young rider prize at the Amgen Tour of California.

Haga posted 74 race days in 2014 — more than the previous two seasons combined — and they were all quality races across Europe and the United States. He saw starts at such diverse races as Nokere Koerse, the Critérium du Dauphiné, and the Vuelta a España, as well as the Amgen Tour of California.

He posted three top-10s in time trials, including fourth at the Vuelta a Burgos in August, a result that helped him punch his ticket to the Vuelta a España for his grand tour debut.

Haga survived what was a very tough Vuelta, helping teammate John Degenkolb claim the overall points competition. Giant-Shimano also had a promising showing in the general classification, placing Warren Barguil in the top 10 overall.

The 26-year-old American then wrapped up his season with the world team time trial race in Ponferrada, Spain, and Milano-Torino to close his 2014 calendar in Italy in October.

“I was really surprised how well I came out of it,” Haga said of the Vuelta. “Certainly, I was tired, but I never fell off the cliff. It was pleasantly surprising.”

Unlike many of his younger compatriots, most of whom have come through the successful U23 racing program backed by USA Cycling, Haga raced collegiately, and graduated with a mechanical engineering degree from Texas A&M in 2010.

Giant-Shimano was looking to add some young Americans to their lineup, and Haga and Craddock fit the bill perfectly.

“At the beginning of the season, Chad was quiet, and you could see he was looking to find his place,” said Giant-Shimano sport director Lionel Marie during the Vuelta. “Now you can see he is more comfortable, and he’s much more a part of the team. Everyone is very happy with how he’s performing. He has a big future.”

Haga is back home, enjoying some quality time Stateside before regrouping with his Giant-Shimano teammates for the first team meetings ahead of the 2015 season.

“There will be a lot of mountain biking in my winter,” he said. “I will be excited to race next year.”

An American in France

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