Heinrich Haussler Interview: Hunting a big Classic win
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Sunday, February 28, 2010

Heinrich Haussler Interview: Hunting a big Classic win

by Conal Andrews at 9:19 AM EST   comments
Categories: Pro Cycling, Spring Classics
 

Cervélo Test Team rider Heinrich Haussler emphasised before the Omloop Het Nieuwsblad that he wouldn’t be in a position to chase a big result due to a sore knee, but proved himself wrong yesterday when he finished as runner-up to solo victor Juan Antonio Flecha (Team Sky).

The 26 year old German won the sprint behind Flecha to take second, beating American Tyler Farrar (Garmin-Transitions) into third, and rode aggressively throughout the day.

"I tried to attack a few times today but it was never the right group," he said in a team release. "No one seemed to want to work. So in the final I tried it again and I was just able to stay ahead of the group behind me. I am really happy about the second place; to be honest, I was not sure about today. Actually this race was a bit of a test because of my knee, but I realized today that my form is still there I felt comfortable mixing it up at the front of the bunch."

Haussler hurt his knee when he crashed in the recent Volta ao Algarve, but has clearly recovered. He’ll start today’s Kuurne-Brussels-Kuurne as one of the big favourites, but is really pinning his hopes and ambitions on the Tour of Flanders and Paris-Roubaix.

2010 is going to be a very important season for him, given that he is vying to continue stepping up a level in pro cycling. He made a big improvement in 2009, finishing second overall in the Tour of Qatar and winning the sprint classification, then going to nab two stages in the Volta ao Algarve and one in Paris-Nice.

Moving to the Cervélo Test Team had clearly remotivated him after several years with Gerolsteiner, and he continued that strong showing into the rest of the spring. He finished a very close second to Mark Cavendish in Milan-San Remo, being passed on the line, was also a runner-up in the Ronde Van Vlaanderen, and took seventh in Paris-Roubaix.

His biggest result came in July, however, when he rode with great style and stubbornness on a freezing, wet thirteenth stage to Colmar, winning his first Tour de France stage alone.

Haussler spoke to VeloNation in recent days, discussing a number of issues including that victory – a day he describes as the best of his life - his 2009 season in general, his 2010 goals, becoming more professional as a sportsman, and also his possible change of nationality to Australian prior to this year’s world road race championships in Geelong, Melbourne.

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VeloNation: Heinrich, you had your best ever season in 2009, taking some important victories and also finishing second in two Classics. You have said in interviews that your improvement is down to being more professional. What was the source of your motivation to work harder?

Heinrich Haussler: I think it was mainly because I came to a team with Thor Hushovd and Carlos Sastre in it. I wanted to show them and all the people on the team who had put their trust in me that I can ride a bike too. I knew that I belonged up there, but sometimes you just need a change in life, a change in teams or a change in training to something different.

Coming to this team motivated me a lot that winter and I was training really hard. My form was already really good in the training camp. When I came into the team I really wanted to show them straight-up in the first races that I can ride a bike.

VN: What was for you the highlight of last year?

HH: The stage in the Tour de France. That was unbelievable for me….you can’t express and you can’t explain those types of feelings that you have in the last kilometre. Even now when I watch it on TV, you get goosebumps. Sometimes I have to hold a tear back.

Moments like this are why you put all the hard work in, all the training in the rain and the cold in the winter, all the tough hours. Moments like that are what make it all worthwhile. That was definitely the biggest highlight of my life so far, and I’ll never forget it.

VN: What would you say to other riders in your position last winter, as regards knuckling down and really becoming more professional?

HH: You just have to believe in yourself. If you want something more than anyone else, you can achieve it. You just have to want it more and you have to just be determined. You have to live as a professional, train hard, treat your body good, eat well, getting sleep. The main thing is that if you want to achieve something in your life, you can achieve it. You just have to want it more than everyone else.

VN: Last year you were very strong early on, but said at the Classics that you were past your peak. You have planned to change things this year to be in top form for the main one-day races. What have you done to peak later?

HH: Well, last year, everything was new for me. I started off in Qatar and I was feeling strong; I wanted to race well in every race and win every race. But now…for me, it is only important to win one race this year. I don’t need to win other races like last year, two stages in Algarve – it is all good and nice to win, but now I am also using the races to train and find my form leading up to Flanders and Roubaix. I am trying to work more towards peaking for those races.

VN: If you had a choice of winning one of the Classics, which would it be?

HH: Flanders.

VN: Is Milan-San Remo important as well? You were second there last year, just being pipped at the line…

HH: Well, I am going to start San Remo having intentions that myself, Thor or someone else on the team – it doesn’t really matter – wins. We will see how the form is on the day. If my form is good and Thor says he is not good or someone else on the team says they are not good, then I will go for it. If Thor says he is absolutely flying, then we will ride for him.

That is a good thing on the team; we have our options open. We don’t focus just on one rider.

VN: Who do you see as your main rivals for Flanders and Roubaix?

HH: I think it is going to be Tom Boonen. He has shown how strong he is already. He definitely looks stronger than in past years. I think he will be strong, and I think Philippe Gilbert is going to be really strong if he starts off as he ended the season last year.

And also Pozzato as well. They are the main three rivals.

VN: What is your schedule like after the Classics?

HH: Well, after Roubaix I am going to take a week off, just have a rest. I will maybe go on a holiday or something, then straight away I will go up to Saint Moritz for three weeks altitude training. I will come back down, do the Bayern tour in Germany, do Swiss [the Tour de Suisse], and then the Tour.

VN: The team is looking for a wildcard to the Tour de France this year. However Carlos Sastre hasn’t actually said that he is riding the race. Do you think there is any danger in one of Cervélo’s big-name riders being so non-committal at this point?

HH: We can’t say for sure that we are going to be riding. But I think we will show the results in the next few weeks, like we did last year, and hopefully we will get a wildcard and be able to start. We had two stage wins last year, Thor had the green jersey and Carlos seems really focussed this year. He is looking really good, and I think he wants a ride in the Giro this year.

VN: He had a fantastic Giro in 2009, but the Tour didn’t work out. Do you see a change in him this year, perhaps with less pressure on his shoulders?

HH: Well, I read on the internet that he wants to be on the podium again in the Giro. He is definitely focussed if he can say something like that – not many people can achieve that. He is definitely motivated and he looks good.

VN: Later in the year you have the worlds. Will you do the Vuelta to prepare for that?

HH:  The worlds is something I will probably be doing. It is something I have in the back of my mind at the moment but for now, I am really just focussed on the Classics. After that, I will have a bit of a break and I will be concentrating on the team. The season will have been so long by that point, and then you have to build up again for the world championships. It all depends on how the season goes up until then.

First, get through the Classics, get through the Tour good, and then I will decide what I am going to do.

VN: You have considered changing your nationality from German to Australian, so you could be able to race on home soil in the Aussie jersey. What is happening there?

HH: Nothing has really changed on that as I haven’t had the time; I have been travelling so much. In the last six weeks, I have been home maybe two days. I haven’t had to look into it, I haven’t really thought about. It is something I am not going to make a decision about until after the Classics. It is also not a decision you make every day…I want to sit down and speak with my family, my girlfriend.

Right now, I am just focussing on the Classics and after that I will decide what I am going to be doing.

VN: I understand that you had to take a couple of years away from the worlds to be able to change…

HH: Well, they [the UCI] said that I have to give back my German nationality. I think there is a three or four year period [where you can’t represent your country]. I think I was 19 the last time I rode at that world championships, so that is no problem.

VN: Finally, how is the mood on the team this year?

HH: We are still urging, we are still waiting for the first win. We have been close a few times. If you look back to Qatar, if we didn’t get that minute penalty, I think that things would have been a lot different. We also would have taken the race in our hands and it would have been different.

Now this weekend there are the two opening Classics in Belgium. We want to start off as we finished off last year. We are definitely here to win, we have a strong team and all we can do is our best. But we need a win now.

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