MINNEAPOLIS (VN) — J.J. Haedo (Jamis-Hagen Berman) has returned to the U.S. peloton this year after spending six seasons on Bjarne Riis’ Saxo Bank squad.
Haedo joined his old compatriot and friend Sebastian Alexandré at Team Jamis to help the team gain entry into major American UCI events. A veteran of several grand tours, Haedo has quickly re-adjusted to American racing.
Haedo is familiar with the American circuit, having raced for Colavita and Toyota-United from 2003 to 2006. Since his return, Haedo has racked up a string of victories, including wins at the Joe Martin Stage Race, San Dimas and the Air Force Association Cycling Classic. Haedo has continued his winning streak with two criterium victories at the Nature Valley Grand Prix.
A pragmatic sprinter, Haedo ignored the time bonuses during the St. Paul Downtown Criterium and focused on securing a quick stage win.
“It’s good to get a win for the team in the second stage of the race,” said Haedo. ”The pressure goes a little bit off. Now we can keep racing as we do, but a little more relaxed.”
Watched closely by his competitors, Haedo is unperturbed that his European exploits have made him a marked man in the U.S. peloton.
“Most of the time the fight is behind me, and not in front, so that’s a good thing,” said Haedo after the St. Paul crit.
It hasn’t been all roses for Haedo since his return to the United States. A five-time Amgen Tour of California stage winner, Haedo abandoned the race on the second stage while teammate Janier Acevedo grabbed the yellow jersey.
“I just had a little set back in Cali’ where I really wanted to ride good,” said Haedo. “I guess that’s the way it is. You have to move ahead.”
Haedo makes his home base in his family’s town of Chascomus, Argentina. The South American summer affords him an ideal off-season training location, and proximity to family and friends helps him stay centered.
Though he’s comfortable living in the States during the race season, Haedo misses the conveniences of a compact European lifestyle, which he enjoyed in his adopted hometown of Girona, Spain.
“Girona is a beautiful place. I lived six years there and knew a lot of people, good restaurants, and good bars,” said Haedo. “I didn’t have a car for three or four years, I could walk around everywhere. I miss that part.”
After several years climbing the ranks of the European peloton Haedo is changing his approach to racing. He once planned his career closely, trying to improve and accomplish specific goals year after year. At 32 years of age, Haedo is now working on taking life as it comes, and leaving his future beyond 2013 open.
Part of that future is taking on new challenges. Haedo enjoys the mentor role he’s assumed for several of the young recruits on the team.
“I think everybody is using my gray hair now. It’s also good to be useful in another way,” said Haedo about teaching promising riders like Ruben Companioni. “He’s coming from Cuba his whole life, it’s a different type of racing. He has a big engine, he just has to polish it a little bit more.”
After the Nature Valley Grand Prix Haedo will head to Colorado to start preparing for the USA Pro Challenge.
”I know Colorado is going to be really hard for me, but I have to try,” said Haedo. “I have to train and get used to the altitude, and if I’m at my best, maybe I can do something.”
Equipped with a fresh approach and a group of people he trusts, Haedo is settling back into his winning form.
“They really committed to have me on the team and I think it’s working perfect for both of us,” said Haedo.