Heinrich Haussler will look back at 2010 as a disappointing year, he has been plagued by a knee injury that has cut his season short and is now waiting until he can resume training. He knows his potential as a rider and in 2011 plans to be back better than before.
The World Championships in Melbourne are still an uncertainty for Haussler, it all depends upon his recovery, though there is possibility that we see him race for the first time on home soil as a green and gold Aussie pro cyclist. As a dual citizen, Haussler is now forfeiting his German citizenship to be recognised by the UCI as an Australian so that he can follow his heart and race with an Australian racing license.
I spoke with Heinrich for Bicycles Network Australia (BNA) about his recovery, his plans for the future and about the 2010 Tour de France. We spoke as stage six was underway. Some of the questions were contributed by members of the Australian Cycling Forums.
BNA: 2010 is turning into a year of ups and downs, when you look back at it, what will be the highlights?
Haussler: My highlights, well so far it’s been a disaster. Last year was perfect. It’s like a roller coaster. Once my knee gets better I am going to be back up and even stronger than last year.
BNA: Are you following the TDF?
Haussler: I have been.
BNA: Had you have ridden the TDF this year, would you have been the second spearhead for the team or would you be supporting team mate Thor Hushovd?
Haussler: It’s hard to say. I think that this year I could have gone for the green jersey, but Thors older than me, he’s had more wins and is more respected. He’s got his position in the team and I’ve got to work my way up there.
We can’t have two leaders going for the green jersey, we would have had to work for one rider. I’ve got plenty of years to go, plenty of years in front of me. I have no problems to work with Thor. I know if I would have done the Tour then I also would have got one or two chances where I could have done something for myself.
BNA: Cadel Evans is Australia’s most likely candidate to challenge for the win? What are your thoughts on his chances this year?
Haussler: On the cobblestone stage it was really good to see him up there. I didn’t expect him or Andy Schleck to be up there. He didn’t gain that much time, though still has time over Contador and Lance so it’s going to be interesting this year. There are a lot of GC riders that are on the same level and it is going to come down to how strong their team is. Especially in the last week, it is going to be a really exciting Tour this year.
BNA: Aussie riders have an ever growing presence in the classics and major tours – does your team loyalty override patriotism or can you enjoy seeing a fellow Aussie performing well?
Haussler: Firstly you want to do well with your team, though for sure, when Cadel or Robbie McEwen or another Australian wins the stage, of course you are going to be happy for them?
BNA: The Aussie riders tend to get along quite well even when they are riding for different teams, do you enjoy the same comradery even with your German riding history.
Haussler: Yes, normally you talk to every one. I don’t have problems with any of the guys, but there’s a lot of groups, like the Spanish. A lot of the Aussies just have a good laugh, tell a few jokes in the peloton, so that’s always good, keeps your mile up – just enjoying the race.
BNA: You have announced that your decision to sacrifice your German citizenship is because you feel more Australian. Will racing under the Australian flag give you more opportunities or options?
Haussler: No, I havn’t made this decision because I think I am going to have a better possibility to win races. It’s also got nothing to do that the World Championships are in Australia. This is a decision I wanted to follow through with a couple of years ago but because I was in a German team, the management and the sponsors wanted German riders, so that wasn’t possible. Now it’s not an issue.
If I did ride the World Championships or the Olympics in the future, I want to ride for a country where my heart beats. It would just feel wrong to ride for Germany.
BNA: Have you had any reactions from fellow German riders regarding your plans to change to an Australian racing license? Are they supportive?
Haussler: They pretty much knew what I wanted to do. Like I said, there’s already been a few years that I have been thinking about this and talking about it. All the riders that I am pretty close with, they already knew that I was going to make this decision at the end of the year.
BNA: Without a doubt, your German racing experience has contributed to your success, are there any traits that a German cyclist has that you may not find in an Australian cyclist?
Haussler: I moved to Cottbus when I was 14. Especially for this area and the training around there it is really old school. The East (German) training method you could say. Really long hours, just really steady.
Already in the Under 17’s, Under 19’s I was doing 180, 220, 240 km rides. Nothing above 30 km/h, just really slow and easy. There’s so many different ways you can train, though that’s very typical for East Germany.
BNA: The East German sports training programs when the Wall were quite renowned and different than the West. Did you see a lot of influence of this in your training? Was it different world compared with West German racing?
Haussler: Not necessary a different world. When I was in the Under 19s or Under 17s, you come to the races and the West German riders would say “Look, there’s an East German Rider, he’s totally over trained, later on in the Under 23’s he is going to be totally burned out”.
I am greatful for what I have experienced in the last 10, 12 years because it has made me the rider that I am today.
BNA: Do you see the AIS playing a role in your future?
Haussler: I have absolutely no idea how things are going to go on over the next few months, over the next few years. I have been speaking to a few people within the Australian cycling world. The first step is to give back my German nationality to prove that I am Australian and now I can contact the UCI and get an Australian licence. Things will go on from there.
BNA: The UCI World Championships are coming up in October in Melbourne, what needs to happen between now and then so that you can race in this event?
Haussler: I had the operation on my knee last week so at this point in time I am not even thinking about the World Championships. I have had knee problems and it has just been going on and on and on and I don’t want to carry it through to next year in the classics. I really want to be 100% again. Now I just have to get healthy.
BNA: So the Worlds are not a goal?
Haussler: It still could happen, I am not sure. Maybe next week I can start training or maybe it is going to take three or four weeks. At this point in time I have no idea.
I just got back from the doctors this morning, they had a look at it, took the stitches out, but it is still really swollen, so I’ve just got to be careful because if I start training too early then I am just going to have the same problems all over again.
BNA: Cycling Australia have already announced the Ausie WC squad however more inclusions are possible – if the World Championships are on your agenda later this year, will you automatically have a place or do you need to qualify.
Haussler: That’s another problem. If I wanted to do the World Championships obviously I would have to qualify and have to prove that I am a strong rider and maybe win a couple of races. I am not sure how that is going to work out. When my knee is better I can sit down with my team, work out what kind of races I am going to do, speak to the coaches and the people picking the team for the Worlds.
At this point in time I don’t know what is going on, it really just depends on the knee.
BNA: Considering that your racing season has stalled, if you can get back into training, other riders will be coming off their top form by the time the Worlds start, will you be in better form to "peak" for the Worlds?
Haussler: That is a possibility. The biggest favourite this year is going to be Gilbert for that course. He is absolutely the number one rider. He’s not doing the Tour de France, he’s leaving that out so that he’s a bit fresher towards the end of the season, so that he has a good preparation. He did the same last year. Last year towards the end of the season he was absolutely fine.
It could be similar with me, I know that if I can get to the form that I should be at and know I can reach, I will definately be up there in the Worlds.
BNA: While Cadel is the reining World Champ, is the World Championship course in Australia better suited to other riders?
Haussler: It is hard to say. I think personally that it is not going to be a sprint. I think a lot of riders are underestimating it. I think it is more suited for guys like Pezzato, Cancellara, Gilbert, myself and maybe Thor Hushovd. For the top sprinters like Cavendish and Petacchi, I think it is going to be too hard.
BNA:If you regain your form after the knee injury in time, could the 2011 Tour Down Under be on your agenda?
Haussler: I could be, yes. It really all depends how things develop in the next few months.
BNA: You are going through tough times to get back on track, what is keeping you motivated to keeping going forward?
Haussler: I know what type of rider I am and what I can be and I know I can mix it with the best, especially in the one day races and when I am really in top form I can also sprint. Also with the team, they gave me a three year contract last year, they put their trust in me. This year they have been such a help, organising physio, medical with the knee – organising travel and transportation, everything.
I want to give something back to the team with good results. But also for myself. It is frustrating for the first three days of the Tour, you have to sit down and pull the legs up and watch the race when really you want to be out there mixing up with them.
BNA: Fellow Cerv?lo TestTeam rider Thor Hushovd has already got a stage win and is holding the green jersey in the Tour de France, though it is still early days. Is it too early to spot the real challengers?
Haussler: The first six, seven stages are pretty flat, you have seen a spint nearly every day so it is really too early to say anything though there’s going to be some good fights.
Boasson Hagen is going to be good now, fighting for the green. He is also a rider that can really climb. Petacchi, I don’t think anyone expected him to be that strong on the sprints. Cavedish at the beginning was a little bit weak but now he came back yesterday.
Then the last week (of the tour) its just full-on hill climbing. It’s going to be exciting for the crowd and the people watching on TV. Definitely exciting this year.
BNA: Do you feel that the Cev?lo TestTeam is diferent to other pro teams because Cev?lo is a bike brand?
Haussler: Yes definitely, I never thought that a bike could make that much of a difference, you know, I thought it was like the power in your legs that makes the biggest difference but when you think about it, at the level where we are, the professional level where the riders are, even half a second makes a massive difference. The bikes are really that fast and aerodynamic, it’s unbelievable.
And also for the other equipment, the team works really well with the sponsors, gives them a lot of feedback so they can make their product better. Not just for us, for the everyday consumer too. They really work with us and listen to what we have to say.
BNA: During the Tour of California, Brett Lancaster rode a new super-light bike, the R5ca “Project California”. Whle not intended as a team bike however there was a lot of information transfer between the riders and engineers so we assume that you are also actively involved in bike and frame development.
Haussler: It’s also good for us too. At the end of the day we want to have the fastest bikes and the best equipment and when we give or feedback back to the team and the sponsors it is beneficial for us too, so that were on the fastest bikes and the best equipment in the peloton.
BNA: You may have noticed that team HTC-Columbia are now sharing live rider data with viewers such as rider position, speed, cadence, power output and heart rate. Where do you see technology going in the next few years.
Haussler: They are going a long way, though a lot of the riders depend upon their equipment. I don’t use a heart rate monitor, I don’t use an SRM system or a speedo. If I feel good I will go out and smash myself (train hard), if I am not feeling too good, then I just stay at home. So you have to learn how your body reacts, how your body is, how your body feels. You have to really learn to use your body in training.
A lot of people have trainers and they say “you have to do 150 today, 180 tomorro, 200 the next day” and you’re tired, but you have to do it because your trainer says you have to do it.
BNA: So essentially you are training by feel.
Haussler: For me it is. We have products that we use in the team and I use them racing but when I am at home I just train by how I feel.
BNA: Now to some fun questions – if you could change one thing in pro-racing, what would it be?
Haussler:That’s a good question? If I could change anything in pro racing? I would build in more cobblestones and more like Flanders.
BNA: With this change, you would be popular in the Peloton after the recent rider protests about cobbled sections.
Haussler: The day that they neutralised that stage, well crashes happen all the time. They say it’s dangerous, but sometimes we go down the hills in the wet at 80, 90 kmh, that’s even more dangerous. When the hill climbers go up the hill, and one of us crashes, we don’t say “neutralise it, wait for us”. The race is about the best overall rider winning.
BNA: And its more exciting for the spectators and viewers.
Haussler: Exactly, maybe one stage is enough – a few more stages could be a bit dangerous though I think one stage like they had on the third stage (of the 2010 Tour de France) just makes the race more interesting.
BNA: After a long tour, are you an intolerable team mate or an angel?
Haussler: I think I am pretty easy to get along. I am definitely not someone who is loud and yells around with a bad mood – well that’s what I think.
BNA: Finally, what tunes do you listed to when you are on the trainer
Haussler: A lot of House and techno mixed with electro to get the heartbeat going.
To wrap I would like to pass on the support and positive comments I am getting from Aussie cyclists, particularly with your decision to take up the Aussie cycling license. We also wish you good luck with your recovery and getting back up to speed.
Thank you for taking the time to share your ans
ers with readers of bicycles.net.au.
Photos ? Cerv?lo TestTeam and TDWSport.com