He’s back; IAM’s Heinrich Haussler was ‘quiet’ last year but in January he grabbed the first major result of 2015; the Australian Elite Road Race Championship.
Haussler rides for Australia now but moved to Germany in 1998 at 14 and rode Stagiaire for T-Mobile in 2004.
Signing for Gerolsteiner for 2005 he made a brilliant debut with a Vuelta stage win – he would stay with the mineral water company’s team until the end of 2008
The 2006 season saw the success continue with five wins – two stages in the Vuelta a Murcia, one in the Rheinland-Pfalz and two in the Franco Belge.
A stage win in the Dauphine was the better of two wins in 2007 with 2008 producing a solitary victory – a stage in the Bayern Rundfahrt.
The move to Cervélo Test Team produced his wonderful 2009 season – with eight UCI wins, including a stage in the Tour de France.
But perhaps more importantly there was a brace of second places in two of the world’s greatest races; Milan-Sanremo and The Tour of Flanders.
It looked as if 2010 would see the slim man from Inverell in New South Wales with the German father and Australian mother join the Elite.
But despite a fine second to Juan Antonio Flecha in Het Nieuwsblad, the early season didn’t sparkle like the previous year did.
And just as form did arrive – with a stage win in the Tour de Suisse – there was a high speed crash in the same race which ruined his season and caused on-going problems which would plague the next two seasons.
The Cervélo merger with Garmin in 2011 didn’t bear fruit for the Australian; joining an established team with numerous ‘Capi’ and a different approach to racing from Cervélo, the marriage never bore fruit.
Albeit Haussler won four races in 2011 and had strong placings in quality races like Het Nieuwsblad, Hamburg and Plouay.
Season 2012 wasn’t vintage despite a highly encouraging 4th in Het Niewsblad to kick things off.
For 2013 the 29 year-old decided to go back to the drawing board; train using the methods which worked so well for 2009 and join a team where the ratio of chiefs to Indians suited his perception of how a team should be built.
The surprise for observers came in the team he chose – the then new Swiss Pro Continental squad, IAM.
His Classics campaign was rock solid; 13th in the Primavera, 11th in the E3, 4th in Gent-Wevelgem, 6th in the Ronde and 11th in Paris-Roubaix.
Last season was compromised by illness but he finished it on the ‘up’ with 3rd in the tough GP Isbergues and 5th in the Paris-Tours.
IAM stepped up to Pro Tour status for 2015 and this season could hardly have started on a higher note for HH, with a win in the Australian Elite Road Race Championship – never an easy race to win given the number of Aussies in the Pro Tour and the high standard of their domestic racing.
He followed his win up with a whole host of top ten stage placings in the Tour Down Under and in the Tour of Qatar.
With just days to go before the Primavera, Haussler took time to speak to VeloVeritas from his home in Germany about his Championship win and the upcoming Classics season.
Thank you for speaking to us, Heinrich – were the Nationals a big goal or did it ‘just happen?’
“No, the Nationals were definitely a big goal, something I targeted.
“To be competitive you have to go out there early to train in the heat – and that’s what I did.”
Caleb Ewan who you beat in to second is a quick boy…
“Yeah, I knew that when the sprint started I had to be on his wheel – not him on my wheel.
“It worked out perfectly, the whole day was like that, everything just fell into place – perfect!”
What about your chain coming off as you crossed the line?
“I’ve no idea, I was talking to a mate about it the other day and explained to him that as I crossed the line I was screaming with the adrenalin surge, then I was with my soigneur and then the presentation – it wasn’t until I went to get on my bike to pedal to meet the TV that I realised that my chain was off.”
Does it still feel good when you pull on the champion’s jersey?
“Every time I pull it on to go training it feels special.”
Does it gain you more respect in the peloton?
“I wouldn’t say that but it gets huge Media attention , I’m really proud to be wearing it and will fight hard to defend it – it’s given me an extra boost and I don’t want to give it back!”
How’s the health?
“Cycling is full of ups and downs but everything is good with me at the moment.
“Although I’m finding it cold back in Europe; I never used to feel the cold – I mean part of my winter routine is to cross country ski in Saint Moritz where it’s down to minus 20.
“But this year with spending all that time in Australia I’m not a fan of the cold anymore!”
Last season wasn’t great for you but it ended well with good rides in Isbergues and Paris-Tours.
“That was the plan; I had a gastro problems last year.
“I lost a lot of kilos and at one stage was in hospital but towards the end of the season I was healthy again and finished well in those two races – which are long and tough.
“It’s good to finish on a high note; it helps you with getting through the winter…”
You rode Qatar; are the desert races a ‘must’ now for Classic contenders?
“I don’t think so but if it’s windy then the style of racing is perfect preparation for the Classics – you just can’t replicate that in training.”
You rode Paris-Nice rather than Tirreno to prepare for the Primavera; isn’t that against conventional wisdom?
“Everyone has their own ideas, I rode Tirreno last year but prior to that I’ve ridden Paris-Nice.
“It was really cold though, I didn’t finish; I climbed off at the feed on Stage Six on Saturday, it was down to one or two degrees which takes so much out of you.
“Tirreno was hellish too – you can’t expect to recover from efforts like that in a day or two.
“In 2011 the conditions in Paris-Nice were horrible and I should have quit – but I was defending the points jersey and rode to the finish.
“But I should have stopped, I was finished after it, nothing left.”
So this week is about recovery?
“Yes, but not just recovery; I’ll fit in a motorpaced ride and a five/six hour training ride, this week.”
No La Manie on Sunday – and the Via Roma returns.
“I like that; you want to keep the traditions going, leave races the way they are – I mean, how many Classics can a sprinter win?
“The organisers just wanted to make it harder so as Nibali could win!”
What’s the programme after Milan-Sanremo?
“All the Classics – Wevelgem, Flanders, Roubaix and then I’ll have a little break before I start my build up for the Giro.”
Which is your favourite Classic?
“They’re all the same to me – I love them all!
“Sanremo is the easiest to finish but hardest to win; there’s been 10 different winners in the last 10 years.
“Flanders and Roubaix are so hard – there are no lucky winners in these races.
“I love them all but have the best chance in Sanremo.”
But no Tour de France for you, this year?
“I’m riding the Giro; I think it’s better for the race and better for the team – Mathias Frank is our man for the GC.
“You can’t target more than one thing at the Tour, it’s not like you can give me support for the sprints and give Mathias the best support for the GC at the same time…”
No Heinrich at Le Tour but then you get a better tan at the Giro, in our experience – and the coffee is way better.
With thanks again to Heinrich and our press contact at IAM, Mr. Tom Paton.