Wout Poels and Jack Haig outlined their program and goals for 2021, setting broadly similar goals for the new season. This will be Poels’ second year at Bahrain Victorious and Haig’s debut in the team, which he joins after five years at Mitchelton-Scott.
Both men aim to compete in the Tokyo Olympics in August – if that happens – with the Ardennes Classics as a key part of the selection process along the way.The Tour de France, which is set to end less than a week before the Tokyo road race, are also on their list of successes, with the pair expected to be part of a strong support team for Mikel Landa as he targets both the Tour and the Giro d’Italia.
Although supporting Landa is the goal of the Tour de France, the team will go there ready to adapt to any change in circumstances if the Spaniard were to falter in the second half of the Grand Tour double, Poels said during the team preseason press conference.
“In the Tour, I’ll have to see how I spend the first week. It remains to be seen how Mikel Landa will come out of the Giro d’Italia, but if he is in great shape he will be among the best and we will ride for him. But it’s good to have multiple options and that’s how I see my role at the moment. ”
Haig added that the team could travel to France with the aim of hunting on stage, with the Aussie, Poels, Landa and the likes of Pello Bilbao and Dylan Teuns all able to do just that.
“Regarding the Tour de France, I think the team will go more like a stage chaser team than a pure GC team,” said the Australian. “I think it’s easy to see that teams like Ineos and Jumbo-Visma have a bit of a stranglehold on GC, so I think it’s probably a bit more of a stage-finding process and seeing how it works. is happening to us. ”
Although the Olympics are once again under threat, with IOC member Dick Pound expressing uncertainty about his future over the COVID-19 outbreak in Japan on Friday, the pair focused on the event.
The difficult route, which includes several mountain passes, including the lower slopes of Mount Fuji, is well suited to both Poels and Haig’s abilities.
“I would really love to go to Tokyo, but I’m not sure if I will – it’s the federation, of course,” Poels said. “If I do a good boulder in the Ardennes, I will have a good chance of going there so everything will stay on that. I did the Olympics in Rio and it would be nice to do my second, and I think the course suits me well. , so we’ll see. ”
Poels, who won Liège-Bastogne-Liège in 2016 and finished fourth at La Flèche Wallonne, looks to have every chance of making the Dutch squad, while Haig, who is among the top climbing talents in Australia with Richie Porte, Jai Hindley and Rohan Dennis, also seems a good bet to ride in Japan. Still only 27 years old, Haig nevertheless sees it as a last chance to race in the Olympics.
“I have the Olympic Games as one of my big goals, probably the only chance of my career to go there because Paris [in 2024] will probably not be a course that suits me, “he said.” Like Wout, the Ardennes block will be important enough to make the selection. Some of the selection criteria are set for some of the longer day races and they are the ones with which we have to show our potential. ”
Aside from the Tour, the Ardennes and the Olympics, both Poels and Haig will participate in similar programs in the spring and early summer. The Volta a la Comunitat Valenciana and the UAE Tour are both on the program, and the duo will also face the Critérium du Dauphiné. A divergence comes in March, where Poels will face Paris-Nice while Haig will travel to Volta a Catalunya.
Haig, who started 2020 in top form, finishing second and third in Valenciana and the Ruta del Sol – as well as securing a stage victory in Granada in the latter – will also focus on integration into his new squad, like Poels. did it a year. since.
“For starters, it’s the first time I’ve changed teams since I turned pro, so one of my number one goals is to fit in, feel comfortable and get to know them. my teammates and the staff. I’ve been here for three years so I really want to create a solid base, ”he said.
Bahrain Victorious will meet for a training camp in Altea, Spain, next week.