We catch up with Campagnolo’s gravel star Nathan Haas on his cool victory in Iceland, Osso Buco and impressing friends with his Campagnolo corkscrew.
At the end of the 2021 season, Australian Nathan Haas called time on his road-racing career, switching codes to the fastest-growing sector of cycling – gravel.
He also switched from dreaming big with Campagnolo at Cofidis to dreaming even bigger with Campagnolo’s range of world-leading gravel equipment.
We last caught up with the 33-year-old in early May.
A lot has happened in the time since...
How’s the season rolled so far and how have you been getting on with Campagnolo’s gravel-specific equipment?
This year’s been such an advantage to be on Campag. The Levante wheelset is a pure gravel wheel with the internal width that makes such a difference to ride feel. The way in which it’s designed means it can absorb impact from the terrain and it really softens the whole experience.
When you’re taking part in events like Unbound [where Nathan finished 26th], which can be up to 10 hours long, having a wheel that works with you and helps your body cope with these shocks and vibrations for such a long time is a huge advantage.
As for the Ekar groupset, it’s the greatest around.
In Iceland, at The Rift gravel race a few weeks ago that I won, there were lots of river crossings with mud, grit, sand and snow.
Many of the riders were using other groupsets with two chainrings and a derailleur, and mid-race they were having to stick their fingers down to remove mud and slop. I didn’t. It also has all the gears I need, those 13 options starting with a nine-cog on the bottom and 42 on the top. It’s the perfect system.
As for the brakes, they’re incomparable.
In Colorado, where I recently raced at Steamboat [finishing 10th], there were some super-fast downhills and it was such an advantage being able to brake so much later than others.
You can overtake dozens of riders in just one corner as they start braking and I don’t have to.
The Levante wheelset was launched earlier this year. And you helped at the launch…?
In March, we flew to Mount Etna on the beautiful island of Sicily. It was snowing, grey… and was one of the most epic experiences of my life. I went with a huge film crew that included an amazing producer and director, and plenty of Italian helpers that were giving us fantastic food and coffee.
To ride on one of the world’s biggest active volcanos was such a mind-blowing experience. The ground is soft, hard and sharp. Climbing is ruthless.
I spent two days riding and fighting the weather the entire time. Then late on the second day, we drove up above the cloud line.
There, it was incredibly sunny and beautiful, and a drone followed me while I rode around some of the craters.
When we’d finished, the entire film crew and team sat there and realised we’d produced something truly beautiful. All of us felt this shoot was so representative of the Levante wheel being so clean, beautiful and epic.
It was truly something magical.
[You can see what Nathan’s talking about here]
How’s your Gravelog podcast coming along?
My podcast has been super-hit so far this season, though we took a break around the time of the Tour de France because there’s so much cycling media going on.
But we’ve got some awesome guests coming up. I’m not going to give too much away but there are celebrities who are into gravel cycling from outside of the cycling world. Also, I interview a few up-and-coming gravel riders from Australia and Europe.
And there’s an ex-WorldTour rider who was on Dancing with the Stars, which might be a bit of a hint. They’re all launching in the next week or two.
All cyclists love cycling and food. How’s your daily diet?
I find eating clean, real food is key to good health, though I wouldn’t consider myself to be an excellent cook. My partner’s much better at cooking the more complicated, tasty food. I focus on organic ingredients, plus good-quality protein and good-quality olive oil.
My favourite meal is from Italy – Osso Buco [veal shanks braised with vegetables in a broth]. My favourite pasta dish is between trofie al pesto, pizzoccheri or, from Rome, cacio e pepe.
I also like Italian wine, my favourite coming from the Veneto region. In Spain, I enjoy Priorat wines. They’re a bit lighter. But I’m also a fan of Australian wines. Big, bold red wines.
It’s been fun this last year as I was given a Campagnolo corkscrew. My friends are always impressed when I whip it out. It’s so big and incredible.
What does your event feeding look like?
Feeding for a gravel race is very different to a road race as you don’t have a car to retrieve your food from. Or a feedzone. So you have to carry everything yourself. At longer races like Unbound, I have a hydration pack and my side pockets are full; I feel like a packhorse.
As for what I eat, I stick heavily to gels and a carb drink mix on the bike. In gravel races, there aren’t many easy sections where you can eat bars or a panini. With the intensity of racing, there’s only really time to take in gels.
Also, the technicality of gravel means it’s good to not spend too much time with your hands off the handlebars.
Have you had the chance to bikepack yet?
Not yet as in season it’s not super-conducive to my training. It’s a beautiful part of gravel but my training’s about super-quality at the moment. But it’s something I’d love to do.
I dream of riding from the north of Australia in Darwin down to Adelaide. And I’d love to ride the Camino de Santiago in Spain.
That’d be such a spiritual experience and is definitely in my future plans.
Finally, anything else to add about your gravel experience so far?
Coming towards the end of the season I can say it’s been a fantastic first year racing gravel. I’ve enjoyed success, many podia and an incredible time racing around the world, all on the world’s greatest bike and with the world’s greatest components.
The big finale to the year, however, is the UCI’s first Gravel World Championships in Veneto, Italy [8-9 October 2022].
It’d be great to do something special there. I hope people come along and watch as it’ll be fantastic.
Discover Campagnolo Ekar gravel groupset
Discover Campagnolo Levante gravel wheels