By Andrew Hood
With two victories and a second place overall at the Tour of Qatar, Heinrich Haussler is starting off his 2009 season on a winning note.
Haussler – who turned 25 on Wednesday – is obviously feeling right at home at the new Cervélo TestTeam.
Nickamed the “Racing Kangaroo,” Haussler’s father is German and his mother Australian. He was raised Down Under, but moved to Germany as a junior once he decided to give it a shot to race his bike professionally.
He turned pro young with Gerolsteiner in 2005 and quickly won a stage in that year’s Vuelta a España. Since then, he’s collected a handful of wins each season as he slowly developed his sprint.
At Cervélo, he’ll see more support in the sprints as well as gain more experience riding the classics alongside such riders as Roger Hammond and Andreas Klier. The move is already paying dividends.
VeloNews caught up with Haussler at last week’s Volta ao Algarve, where he won the first stage and wore the leader’s jersey and then won the final stage to cap a strong week. Here’s what he had to say:
VeloNews: How important is it to win early to establish yourself on this team?
Heinrich Haussler: It’s always good to get an early win. Also for the team, it’s a new team. We really ride good as a team, that’s the main reason I won. I got to the last 500m, not one time was I in the wind. I was fresh. Also in Qatar we rode good. It’s a good sign that I had good training and the performances are already coming.
VN: Will you be one of the protected sprinters throughout the season or will you be helping Thor Hushovd?
HH: If I am racing and Thor (Hushovd) is there, it’s going to be to help him, no doubt about it. He’s a big sprinter. He proves it all the time. He’s been up the last couple of years. I have no problem riding for Thor and I know I can learn a lot from him. And for the classics, we’ll just see who has the best legs on the day and take it from there. But I’d like to win a lot of races this year.
VN: You look physically stronger than before and you’re obviously riding faster, what’s changed for you?
HH: I’m training different this year. Years before I was training really long and slow. I never had top form, I always seemed to have 80-90 percent form during the entire year. Now, I am more focused on specific races and training towards them. Training differently has helped a lot.
VN: Was it a risk to come a new team?
HH: I really like the team, it makes a big difference from making a change. That never happened at Gerolsteiner, like it did with this team, when they were there for me the entire time. I wasn’t in the wind once. That makes such a big difference. It’s perfect for me to be here. It sounds arrogant, but it does make it easier. If you have the team, you win more. That was one of the main reasons I came to this team, because we have a bit of everything. We have Sastre and some climbers for the grand tours, guys for the classics, guys for the sprints. There are some guys to leadout for the sprinters, it’s perfect.
VN: Are you a sprinter who wants to become a classics rider, or the other way around?
HH: The last years I was always doing different things, trying to go well in the classics, the sprints and the grand tours. Right now, I am not worrying about the Tour so much. If I go, great, but right now I am more focusing on the one-day races and do as well as I can. I have to build myself up in the next few years, so maybe in a few years more down the road I can try to win a Flanders or Roubaix. That’s the long-term goal. I’m not there yet, but I have a few more years to gain experience. There are a lot guys here I can really learn from, like Roger (Hammond), Andreas (Klier), they’re guys who’ve done these races. They know what it takes.
VN: What’s your schedule for the first part of the season?
HH: Het Volk, KBK, Paris-Nice, Sanremo, the small classics, Waregem, Harelbeke, then the northern classics. I might go to Amstel Gold, it all depends on how the form is, then a bit of a rest, then concentrate on the Giro. It’s a good program for me. I just want to keep winning.