Haussler snuck into a winning breakaway and then dropped everyone on the bumpy 200km 13th stage from Vittel to Colmar to claim his first career Tour stage victory more than four minutes clear of his pursuers.
"It’s the Tour de France, it’s the biggest race in the world. It means a lot to me. You could see on the finish line, the emotions were going crazy, it meant so much to me," Haussler said. "I really did try hard today, that’s why I couldn’t hold the tears back."
Haussler – who enjoyed a superb spring with second in Milan-San Remo and Tour of Flanders — is unique in the Tour peloton, with dual German and Australian citizenship. Fluent in German, he was raised in Australia, but lives in nearby Frieburg, Germany, and knows the local roads.
"I only live 30km away (in Germany), so this is my training area. It was a stage that I looked at. At the beginning of the year, my form was really good and I was climbing really good, so I knew that I could win this stage or have a go at it," he explained. "Today we didn’t want to miss the group, so I had a chance to go. It wasn’t easy to get into the break, but today I had luck. The first attack went and straight up I was in the group. I know this area and it was really good to get the win here."
Cold, wind and rain made for a long and challenging stage. With a breakaway fighting for the spoils, the main GC contenders decided to save their legs for another day and the main pack crossed the line 6:43 behind the victorious Haussler.
Rinaldo Nocentini retained the yellow jersey and Cerv?lo team captain Carlos Sastre finished 30th with the main bunch to remain 16th overall at 2:52 back.
"It was a really cold and difficult stage, but it was a great day for Cerv?lo. We won with Heinrich and took the green jersey back with Thor, so it couldn’t have gone better for us today," Sastre said at the line. "The final hard climb was too far from the finish line for the top rivals to really have any impact. The cold and rain took the fight out of some of us. You can feel the accumulation of the effort staying to take its toll on pack. To be honest, I’m ready to see what happens in this third and decisive week of the Tour."
Hushovd, meanwhile, was back on the podium Friday when he regained the green jersey after sprinting to sixth in the stage. The big Norwegian enjoyed an exceptional day climbing to get over the steep first-category Col du Platzerwasel with 61.5km to go.
Arch-rival Mark Cavendish didn’t make it over the climbs and finished in the gruppetto more than 23 minutes in arrears, missing out on all points. Hushovd now leads with 205 points to Cavendish’s 200.
"I will never give up on the green jersey. Yesterday I was just a little bit frustrated when I said that. I will go 100 percent all the way to Paris to fight for the green jersey," Hushovd said. Now that we’re in the mountains, it will be a little bit better for me. I knew this stage was going to be tough. My teammates helped me get up the steep climb. Once I knew I was over the hardest climb, it really helped my morale to get to the line."
The 96th Tour rolls on Saturday with the 199km 14th stage from Colmar to Besancon. The route pushes south over two relatively minor climbs and could be another opportunity for the sprinters if a breakaway doesn’t stay clear.