By Andrew Hood
Spanish roads must remind Heinrich Haussler of his native Australia, because the young Gerolsteiner rider took another impressive victory in the attack-heavy opener of the Tour of Murcia on Wednesday.
Haussler, whose father is German and mother is Australian, was raised Down Under until he left for Germany at 14 to chase his dream of becoming a professional racer. That dream turned into reality when Gerolsteiner signed him to a two-year deal last year and he quickly repaid the favor, winning a stage in last year’s Vuelta a España.
Haussler, who turned 22 last weekend, easily outkicked Ariel Richeze, an Argentine on Panaria-Navigare, to grab the 162.2km first stage from Murcia to Las Torres De Cotilla.
Many of the big stars present at the Murcia tour stayed safely tucked in the pack as Rubén Pérez (Euskaltel) and Thorwald Veneberg (Rabobank) drifted off the front in the day’s main breakaway only to be reeled in with 5km to go.
Alejandro Valverde (Illes Balears), a winner of the Murcia tour in 2004, seemed content to watch the others and finished quietly in 18th without contesting the sprint. Damiano Cunego (Lampre), Denis Menchov (Rabobank), Alexandre Vinokourov (Liberty Seguros) and Michael Rasmussen (Rabobank) all finished safely in the pack.
Without a major sprinter’s team to control the pace in the closing kilometers, several riders tried in vain to escape. Haussler took advantage of the disorder to score another victory on Spanish roads.
He’ll start Thursday’s 172.4km second stage wearing the leader’s jersey. The route starts in Alcantarilla and includes a Cat. 1 climb up the Alto de La Perdiz, just 16km from the finish line in Alhama de Murcia.
Top 10 results
1. Heinrich Haussler (G), Gerolsteiner, 162.2km in 4:03:18
2. Ariel Richeze (Arg), Panaria-Navigare, same time
3. Jesus del Nero (Sp), 3 Molinos Resort, s.t.
4. Baden Cooke (Aus), Unibet.com, s.t.
5. Angel Vicioso (Sp), Liberty Seguros, s.t.
6. Peter Wrolich (A), Gerolsteiner, s.t.
7. David Munoz (Sp), Comunitat Valenciana, s.t.
8. Angel Edo (Sp), Andalucia-Paul Versan, s.t.
9. Gorazd Stangelj (Slo), Lampre, s.t.
10. Pablo Urtasun (Sp), Kaiku, s.t.