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With his expected team leader Mikel Landa still on the injured list from his crash at the Giro d’Italia, Jack Haig started this Tour de France as the top GC rider on Bahrain Victorious. The 27-year-old Aussie came into the race on a high note after placing fifth at the Critérium du Dauphiné. Between the Dauphiné and the Tour, he returned to his home, wife and baby in Andorra, where he trained at altitude until heading to the Tour start in Brest. After five seasons as a professional on Australia’s GreenEdge team, nearly always working for the Yates brothers and Esteban Chaves, he quickly showed his confidence as a team leader. He has raised his sights on his new team; and on the demanding hilltop finish to stage 1 last Saturday, he surprised even his team management by placing an excellent fourth—just out-sprinted by Michael Matthews and Primož Roglič.
Like many riders, after falling with half the peloton on stage 1’s massive pileup, Haig was more apprehensive than ever about being involved in a crash on the narrow roads of Brittany—but he was looking ahead to having a breakthrough Tour. Asked what he expected from the next three weeks, he said, “Turning up, staying safe, working hard and the result will come. What I’d ideally like to do is a good GC result, but it’ll just come from consistent hard work and being there. I think, for me, top 10 is relatively realistic and anything in the top five would be outstanding.”
By Monday morning, he was lying sixth overall and looking ahead to Wednesday’s time trial where he expected to defend his place in the top 10. But that hope came crashing down 3.7 kilometers from the end of stage 3.
Sitting comfortably about 20 riders from the head of the fast-moving front group, protected by teammates ahead and behind him, the lean, 6-foot-3 Haig was looking good. Then, inexplicably, heading into a sweeping, downhill left turn, the teammate behind him, Austrian Marco Haller, brushed Haig’s back wheel. Haller wobbled, lost control of his bike and caused Haig to lose balance too. He began falling to his right into French sprinter Arnaud Démare, one of the stage favorites. Together, they crashed to the pavement, with the much heavier Démare rolling on top of the lanky Aussie. That unfortunate series of events ended with Haig lying on his back for long minutes attended by teammate Haller, who eventually continued to the stage finish. Haig was forced to quit, later diagnosed with a mild concussion and a broken left collarbone.
Having started his sporting life as a surfer and skier growing up in Queensland on Australia’s west coast, and later getting into mountain biking after his family moved to Melbourne on the southeast coast, Haig has always been a great bike-handler. So, racing down a fast, technical descent is something that’s in this redhead’s DNA—he still skis and mountain-bikes in Andorra. That’s why his crash on Monday was so unexpected; but clearly it was the fault of others, while the unfortunate fact of Démare falling on top of him probably accentuated his injuries.
On his way home to Andorra, Haig wrote on Instagram: “I’m OK, just heart broken and devastated to leave the Tour de France like this. I really believed something special was going to happen these weeks.” Instead of racing hard in Wednesday’s time trial, he was having surgery on his broken collarbone.
With Haig out of the race, Bahrain’s best expectations for the Tour are a potential stage win for sprinter Sonny Colbrelli, the recently crowned champion of Italy, and a high GC finish for Spanish climber Pello Bilbao—who placed 13th overall in last month’s Giro d’Italia. As for Haig, he will try to recover from his injuries in time to ride for Australia at next month’s Olympic road race in Tokyo. But his probable return will be at the Vuelta a España, riding for Landa. Maybe that golden chance to be team leader at a grand tour has now passed him by….
THE LATEST LOST BOYS
The Tour’s Lost Boys: Three riders were forced to abandon the race on stage 3: Haig, Dutchman Robert Gesink of Jumbo-Visma and Australian sprinter Caleb Ewan of Lotto-Soudal (all with broken collarbones). Spaniard Marc Soler of the Movistar Team could not start stage 2 after bravely finishing stage 1 (with two fractured elbows). And three men quit the race on stage 1: Lithuanian Ignatus Konovalovas of Groupama-FDJ (concussion); Frenchman Cyril Lemoine of B&B Hotels-KTM (four broken ribs, cut behind the right ear and a collapsed lung); and German Jasha Sütterlin of Team DSM (severe contusion of the right wrist).
As a result, the Tour’s 184-strong starting field has now been reduced to 177.