“Jack has been with torq for a number of years and is a very important part of the team, Its been interesting watching him develop from an unknown entity in the early days , when first joining the team to the rider he is today with huge potential on his mountain bike or his road BikeA team player and role model for the younger riders, hes always been very laid back and easy going. He is awesome to have around, i would know, with many a long journey travelling around in the car and caravan. Having got used to each other’s smelly habits we have become really good mates. There really is no nicer guy”
Mr Haig, you would have to be one of the most loved redheads in Australia. Where did the ride all start for you?
Haha thanks. It’s kind of a weird story but when I was young I just did the kid thing and rode my BMX heaps and broke bones doing dirt jumps and riding around skate parks. As I got a little older, I got into skiing and surfing heaps and was set on becoming an action photographer or a ski guide somewhere in Canada. But in 2011, I somehow managed to get into the Junior long team for worlds and started to ride my bike a little more and did some training. From then on, I started to progress and enjoy it a little more and here I am now enjoying riding more than ever.
You’ve long said that your heart lies in mountain biking but what did you start racing on first: the road or dirt?
Yeah, I love being out in the bush and having fun on my mountain bike. I think Mum and Dad bought me an MTB so that I could ride to school easier and from there, I did a couple of local Mountain bike races with it. I don’t even think I knew about road racing at that time, I was just a young kid having fun doing skids.
You were picked up by Torq, with their focus primarily on the team and development, what has that meant for you as a racer?
Dean and Gen at TORQ have been great. I have been with him for a while now and we have built a good relationship. TORQ has given me time to develop as a person as well as a rider and one of the new development path ways that Dean has created is with the ‘Huon Genesys’ road team, which has meant a lot more opportunities have opened up for me. Hopefully, if we can keep a good relationship between TORQ and Huon Genesys, it can be a pathway for some of the quick juniors that we have in the TORQ team at the moment.
The races you attend with Torq, you go through with the team. What are the rest of the team like? Any funny stories?
The whole team is great, we have had a bit of a change recently with a couple of riders leaving and going to different teams. But it has meant that Dean could get a lot of juniors on board and help them out. Haha, plenty of good stories. One of the good ones is a trip that Robbie, Dean and I did bouncing around in his tin box (LandRover Defender) towing the massive caravan to Adelaide for the Kona Dirty Weekend 24hr race and then up to Alice springs for the Red Center stage race. Riding in the middle of nowhere. It was about 2 and a bit weeks of living out of the Caravan and having a great laugh, probably one of the best things I have ever done. Now, with all the juniors in the team, they are just doing silly things all the time so there is always something to laugh at.
A few weeks ago, you came third at the U23’s road national championships. Did that sort of come as a surprise to you? You must be pretty stoked.
With the type of training that I am doing now with Mark Fenner (FTP Training) we sort of knew that I was putting out good power figures, but because I hadn’t really done that much road racing, we were a little unsure of how it was going to go. For my first real crack at the Road National, I was super stoked to come home with the 3rd in the Road race and 5th in the time trail. It was a great way to start the year off with my new road team ‘Huon Genesys’.
Last year’s nationals were pretty good for you, with Robbie Hucker and yourself pretty much dominating in the U23’s. With Robbie having gone onto the DRAPAC road team, how do you find it without him at races?
For me it’s a real shame that Robbie’s not at the races anymore because we had become really good friends and it was just heaps of fun being able to hang out and race together. I really hope that he has a great year on the road with DRAPAC, he is a super gifted rider and it would be cool to see him progress even if it isn’t on the Mountain bike.
Huon Genesys allows you to ride mountain bikes. What do you think of road teams that don’t allow team riders to go on dirt? Do you really think it’s necessary?
I am very thankfully of the work that Dean did to get me onto the Huon Genesys team and that the team Director, Andrew, is happy for me to do some Mountain biking. It is a shame that someone like Robbie couldn’t do Mountain biking but at the end of the day, if a road team is going to invest money into you to race on the road and you have an accident Mountain biking, which means you have to miss half a road season then the team has lost a fair bit of money.
You went over for the Northern Hemisphere’s summer, competing in both America and Europe in your lead up to the World Championships. What drew you to race in America and how did you find the scene over there?
One of the things that drew me to America was that the level of competition isn’t as high as Europe. Where in Europe you turn up to a Swiss Cup and have 10 out of the top 20 riders in the world turn up and racing, which makes it very hard to get into the UCI points. In America, there is good competition but it’s not quite as hard as Europe, which meant I was able to get some good results and because it was an Olympic year, I managed to pick up a fair amount of UCI points. The American scene is great. Everyone is super friendly and a lot of people helped me out while I was over there including Sid Taberlay, who has been over there heaps before and knew what was going on.
So are you saying UCI points are a heavy influence on where and when you race?
Yes, a little bit because UCI point determine where you start at any UCI race and at World Cups or World Champs where there can be upward of 100 riders. If you don’t have any, you start at the very back. So before you even start you are giving the very best riders in the world a head start, which there is no way you are going to make up in the race.
What did you learn in those months in the lead up to worlds and where
did you visit? Anywhere you would return?
I learnt so much just by talking to people and making sure that the people you are trying to make plans with know what you’re talking about and you know what they are talking about. I learnt that America Airlines cancel flights a lot so I spent a lot of time in random hotels. Never be afraid to talk to people and ask for help. There are heaps of places in North America that I went to that I definitely would go back to. Some of the stand-outs are Park City, Missoula and Vancouver. I based myself in Germany for my stay in Europe and loved it. It was a refreshing change to America which is fairly similar to Australia.
It wasn’t your first time at worlds but you’re pretty hard on yourself and were a little unhappy with your Worlds result last year, whys that?
I think by that time in my trip, which was just over 3 months in, I was a little over it and ready to get home. After traveling around on my own for 3 and a bit months and spending so many hours in airports, not really knowing where I was going to be staying next and just organising things was a lot for me to take at the time being only 18. But I learnt so much from it, more life lessons than riding and I think it has helped shape me as a person. But when it came to getting a race face on and digging deep at worlds, I don’t think I did as well as I could have considering some of my results that I had on my way to worlds, where I was super motivated to do well.
Do you ever have an off season?
I had about 4 weeks off which I spent 2 weeks surfing and just spending time away from cycling. But, other than that, not really. It’s so hard because you get back from overseas and then have a little break and before you know it, there’s another race on and then Road Nationals pops up.
So, is this sort of your full-time job at the moment to make or break?
A little bit, but I have picked up bits of work when I haven’t had to be training flat out or away racing all the time and I am looking into doing some online Uni. I would like to think I have a window of a couple of years to make or break it as a full on pro so I am not in much of a hurry.
Who do you see as a progressive racer within Australian Mountain biking at the moment?
I know Dan McConnell has been around the top of Australian Mountain biking for a while now, but last year I think he really stepped it up for Olympics. Also, Ben Bradley who I spent some time with overseas last year is still very young and doing world cups and getting some good results at his age is very impressive. There are a lot of really good riders out there at the moment and a couple from Bendigo that are on the up so keep an eye out.
Training for both road and dirt must be pretty hard. What do you focus on more? Do you have some kind of weekly structure?
I focus more on the road side of things. At times, I will go for weeks without riding my mountain bike but at the moment, with national series on and not too much road racing, I spend a fair bit of time on my Mountain bike. I work very hard with my Coach Mark Fenner to try and find a balance between them. I normally do about 19-21hrs on the bike training a week and a fair bit of work off the bike like stretching, core stability work and foam rolling. Most weeks, I will have double session on the bike which might mean Tempo efforts in the morning and then an ergo in the afternoon or Road bike in the morning with efforts then a Mountain bike session in the afternoon with some more efforts.
You must have to keep a pretty tight diet as well, is it hard to stay true?
I am very lucky and grew up in a family that has always eaten really healthily so I have never really had too much problem with keeping on good diet. I also find nutrition interesting so I do a lot of reading and research about it and as I have progressed further in cycling I focused more and more on it. Being sponsored by TORQ nutrition is handy and it means I am always having good food on the bike.
Due to your dual identities you get to see quite a bit of Australia. Is there any place you like to ride in particular?
Haha, the never ending traveling and living out of bags. The little bit of riding that I have done in Adelaide on the road bike and Mountain bike I have really liked. I also love the Victorian Alps for training and racing on both bikes, there are some epic rides to be had there. I normally find it hard not to have a good time when I am riding in new places so there are too many to list. But I am really looking forward to traveling around some more this year and seeing new places.
You had an impressive first round of Nationals, with your first move up to elite, were you surprised at your result? Do you think the hair adds speed?
The hair definitely adds speed. Not really, I knew that I was going well after road nationals and I had been training harder than I have ever trained before. But I was a little unsure how I was going to go on the Mountain bike because I hadn’t been on it for a while. The reason I made the move up to Elite from U23 was because I wanted that extra challenge of racing with the ‘big boys’ and being an athlete I want to win races and by coming second at Mt Buller I went home wanting to train harder, smarter and better so I would have a better chance of winning the next one.
There are plenty of mixed opinions flying around about The Nationals and MTBA. How do you view things? What do you think could be better?
To me, I find it very frustrating because I love mountain biking but it so hard to make anything from it in Australia and to even make a part way to something overseas is nearly impossible without forking out heaps of money to travel back and forth to Europe for years. Without MTBA helping athletes to create a path way it’s hard to see the point in sticking with high performance side of Mountain biking when there are Road teams like ‘Huon Genesys’ that will help create those path ways to a big team and a career. I really hope that it changes for the juniors that are up and coming now so they can see that there is a path way because at the moment there isn’t a very good one.
You used to be a pretty keen photographer but we haven’t seen anything in a while what happened there?
I think I mentioned it before that I was super keen to try and become and action photographer and skier after finishing school but I think I am the type of person that if I can’t put 100% into something and try and be the best at it, I kind of lose focus. So, when I started to put all my energy into riding, I lost focus on photography. Another thing is when you’re traveling around on aeroplanes and fighting with excess baggage carrying a couple of kilograms of camera gear becomes hard and expensive.
Anything else you like to do in your downtime?
Mainly surfing, having a good time with friends and enjoying life and everything it has to offer.
What are your goals heading into 2013 and the future?
Keep enjoying what I am doing, win U23 Mountain bike National Champs, win an Elite National Series Round, learn a lot about road racing and start to create a future and pay way to a career riding my bike and do massive skids!!
Thanks for your time. Now you can thank everyone!
Haha, there are way too many people to thank, but a couple of important ones are my family, my first coach Matt Wallace, my new coach Mark Fenner, Dean and Gen at TORQ, all the guys at Monza and SRAM for all the good support, my new road team ‘Huon Genesys’ for letting me do skids on my Mountain bike and helping me progress as a rider and everyone that has done anything for me to get where I am now.
So Really, road or dirt?
Dirt, for the enjoyment and road for a potential career.