The 110th edition of the Tour de France has delivered excitement and head-to-head action amongst the cycling world’s greatest talents. As the Tour enters its final weeks, we got to sit down with Australian climbing powerhouse Jack Haig from Team Bahrain Victorious for a quick interview. We discuss everything from World Tour tire selection, climbing-specific bikes (and paint), favorite on-the-bike food, and how to avoid overly excited fans. Enjoy!
BikeRumor: The 2023 Tour de France is non-stop action for us watching; I can’t image what you all are going through actually racing it. How has the Tour been for you this far? Are you happy for the rest day?
Jack Haig: To be honest, this Tour has probably been one of the most intense grand tours I’ve ever done; I think it’s a combination of many things. But the race route this year has really led to some exciting racing, and with Pogacar and Jonas so close in ability, which has meant they’ve needed to try and test each other at every opportunity.
BR: You were a last-minute addition for the Tour and just came off the Giro. How did you change your training and recover so quickly?
JH: I was also a last-minute selection for Dauphine as well, and then after Dauphine went relatively well, the team came up with the idea to do the tour, and I was happy to take on the challenge. I basically haven’t trained properly since before the Tour of the Alps. After Dauphine, I went on a small holiday with the family, then only one and a half weeks at home before leaving for the tour.
BR: The Tour is nearing its crescendo in the high mountains, and weight is seemingly everything. Are there many bike or equipment changes the team does to prep for the Alps?
JH: We have some special frames without paint for the climbers in the team to save a little bit of weight. We also use the TT tyres from Continental because they are a tiny bit lighter, and we have two different Vision wheels, a shallower/lighter version, and a deeper, more aero wheel—otherwise, not many changes.
BR: Eating lunch on the bike for three weeks seems…rough. Is there a food or item in your musette that excites you when you get it?
JH: We have some special rice cake made with puffed rice, and sometimes even coco pops instead of the puffed rice, and then they are mixed with marshmallows. I quite enjoy these, but the racing has been so hard I haven’t had many opportunities to enjoy the food on the bike.
BR: Fan and vehicle interference has been in the news lately. Riders have to read the race and the throngs of fans around them. Is it hard to ride being so surrounded by fans? Are you always alert for a rogue bag, phone, or animal that might take out a rider?
JH: As professional cycling gets increasingly popular, it can become even more of a problem. It’s hard because, as a sport, we need the fans, and it’s also a pretty iconic part of our sport, but when it influences the race or causes crashes, it’s really not very nice. I’m unsure what we can do to help or change this going forward. I’m also surprised we don’t have more incidents considering how many close calls we’ve had.
BR: Team Bahrain Victorious rides Merida Bikes, and we mostly see the riders reach for the Merida Reacto; a more aero-all-around design frame. For the Alps, will you ride the Merida Scultra for the weight savings, or is aerodynamics the critical metric?
JH: I almost exclusively use the Scultra, Merida did an excellent job at making the new Scultra very close to the Reacto in terms of aerodynamics and it’s considerably lighter and has a nicer feeling when climbing.
BR: Tire talk — we (non-World Tour riders) all love wider tires. 26-30mm tires seem to be the new standard for road riding, same with tubeless and hookless. Has Team Bahrain Victorious gone all in on tubeless, or is the tech just not quite there for the demands of the World Tour? Is the team on most 26mm tires, or do you switch widths depending on the stage’s demands?
JH: We at Team Bahrain Victorious exclusively use tubeless wheels and tires, and generally, we use 28mm continental tires. The only thing we change is continental make a TT-specific tire, and we use these obviously in TT’s but also some mountain stages because it’s a little less weight.
BR: You’ve had a super busy year — what does the next couple of months look like? Time off for a holiday with the family or back to work?
JH: To be honest, I’m not 100% sure what I will be doing after the tour. Maybe Classica San Sebastian, and then after that, I’m not really sure. Hopefully, I get a little time to spend with my family because it’s been a very intense year with a lot of time away from home.
BR: Lastly — Do you have any words of encouragement for young riders watching the Tour de France, hoping to join the sport’s highest ranks?
JH: I think the most important thing is to enjoy yourself, constantly ride, and try to improve. You’ll progress if you constantly work a little bit each day and have fun. You’ll continue to improve, and before you know it, race results, teams, and eventual riding will improve. Maybe having a contract in the world tour will come, and if it doesn’t — you will at least have fun along the way.
We wish Jack all the best on the upcoming day of the Tour de France. Make sure to check out the live coverage on NBC Sports (USA), Eurosport (Europe), FloBikes (USA/CAN), and Tunnel Bear for all your VPN needs.