North Texas cyclist fights through injuries, tragedy en route to first Tour de France

While the World Cup garners attention around the globe, one McKinney resident is competing in a different event.

Chad Haga, 29, is competing in the 2018 Tour de France as a support rider for Team Sunweb. It’s his first time racing on cycling’s biggest stage.

From the family’s home in Colin County, Delayne Haga, Chad’s mother, takes it all in.  

“It’s quite an experience,” she said. “It’s amazing that my son has made it this far.”

Chad, a graduate of McKinney North and Texas A&M has been involved in pro cycling since 2011. He’s already raced in some of the world’s biggest races, but not the Tour de France. So when he got the call this year, his family was beyond ecstatic.

Despite the time difference, Delayne has been glued to the TV. She’s watched every stage of the race, which will complete its fourth stage Tuesday.

“My younger son makes fun of me because when he was over here watching with me I’d always be looking for Chad,” she said. “I don’t care about the race as much as I care about seeing my son.”

But Chad’s ride to France has been anything but easy. In 2016 he was hit by a car that was driving in the wrong lane during a training ride in Europe.

“We were told that his injury wasn’t serious,” Delayne said. “But we learned later it was.”

He suffered a fractured eye socket and nerve damage in his face and neck. But there were no broken bones and no brain damage. He may have been hit by a car, but he dodged a bullet.

“I realized I very easily could have died,” Chad said. “But I’m alive and I’m here right now somehow.”

Two weeks later, Chad got back in the saddle and started training again. Two months after his accident he was racing again.

Tragedy struck later that year when Chad’s father, a non-smoker, died following a six-year battle with lung cancer. But in life, Chad’s father left a lasting impact on him and his cycling career.

Delayne remembers an exchange between the two following Chad’s graduation from Texas A&M. Chad was about to enter the working world and settle into a job with an engineering firm that he had interned at. But he was still garnering interest from semi-pro cycling teams.

He called up his father to tell him that he was taking the job, but also told him about the cycling teams.

“That was kind of the end of the conversation,” Delayne said. “But his dad thought there was something he wanted to say. So he called Chad the next day and told him to pursue his dreams.”

Part of that was because Chad’s father, stricken with stage-four lung cancer, would never see his dream of retirement. So he told Chad to pursue his dreams while he could. Chad took the advice to heart. His father’s words helped him build his career as a professional cyclist.

But his father’s death did more than just fuel his cycling career. His mother says that Chad, a practicing Christian, grew in his faith after the tragedy.

On his right forearm, Chad has a tattoo to remind of his walk in Christ. His mother says she doesn’t approve of the tattoo, but she approves of the message behind it.

“It says eternity gained, only life remains,” she said. “It’s in an imperfect font because as humans we are imperfect. He is sure of his salvation and knows where he will spend eternity. The rest is just living life to the fullest.”

The tattoo reminds Chad of his father and how he wants to live his life.

“You can spend life trying to control everything and worrying about everything or you can just go for it,” he said.

That’s an approach that both mother and son share. Delayne has even wrote a book about the lessons she’s learned through the tragedy. It’s called “His Love Carries Me” and focuses on the faith that she and her husband shared. It’s available now on Amazon and will be in bookstores soon.

As for Chad, his team finished fifth in the third stage of the tour on Monday. It is in second place overall  with three riders in the race's top ten as of Tuesday morning. 

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