This article originally appeared in Procycling
Heinrich Haussler is now finally clear of the knee injury which ruined his last two seasons. Garmin-Barracuda’s Classics specialist and sprinter is fully fit and looking to recapture the magic of 2009...
You had a great end to last season – did that give you some momentum into the winter?
Yeah, exactly. That was one of the main goals. It was a really hard Vuelta and there were times when I thought there’s no point finishing because the Worlds course wasn’t that hard. But it wasn’t just for the Vuelta, it was for this year too. You get that strength in the legs and it helps you get through the winter better.
Are you feeling the benefit of that now?
It’s hard to say. We’ll see when the Classics start. In the Tour Down Under it’s hard racing but it’s only 130-140km stages, it’s early in the season and you’ve got the heat and jetlag… We’ll see in the coming weeks how good the benefits were.
Do you feel like this is your first proper run at a season since 2009?
Yeah. I mean, there are no excuses anymore. I’ve been training well through the winter and didn’t have any knee problems. I wanted to be up there last year but i wasn’t being honest with myself… I just wasn’t good enough. After 2009, I missed pretty much the whole 2010 season so I needed last year to get racing in my legs, to get a Grand Tour in my legs, and now I’m on the right track to be at that level again. I hope so anyway. I really want to get back to the level of 2009 to prove to everyone that it wasn’t a fluke.
What particular goals have you got for the Classics? You’re due to recce Flanders…
Yeah, Milan-San Remo, the Tour of Flanders, Paris-Roubaix are all races I’d like to be good at during this season.
Do those extra-long races suit you?
Yeah, definitely the Classics, anything over 200km. It really sorts the riders out a lot. I’d love to win a classic this year. It would be a big step for me but I’d be happy just to get back to that level and be on the podium again at one of the Classics. I know it’s also a massive step to go from being on the podium to winning a Classic. There’s only a handful of people who can win.
Do you go by feeling on that or do you look at what your numbers are telling you?
Just feel. I don’t have a trainer. Obviously it’s a bit different since joining Garmin – the team uses a lot of data – but before that, if I felt good I’d go out hard. If I felt bad… I’d just stay in bed.
How do you think the removal of the Muur van Geraardsbergen from the Flanders route will effect the way the race plays out?
I’m not sure. I’m actually going to Belgium to have a look at the parcours soon. Personally, I don’t think they should have changed it. I think the place was part of the tradition of the race. Everyone knows that Flanders finishes with the Muur and the Bosberg. But we have to give it a chance and see how the course is. I think it is definitely going to be a hard race and probably harder than the previous course.
Now that Thor Hushovd has gone to BMC, does that clear up the team leadership for the Classics?
I don’t think so necessarily. if you look at the teams that are up there all the time in the Classics, they all have two or three leaders. These days you need a strong team to win a classic. BMC have been building their team for the Classics and they’ve now got Ballan, Hincapie, Gilbert, Thor… and they’re all guys that have either won one or been on the podium. Sky, Omega, Rabobank, Lotto, even GreenEdge, they all have good classics teams too. You really need a strong team now.
Maybe the perfect situation was last year in Roubaix with Johan Vansummeren. We didn’t go into the race saying we were going to ride for Johan but it was the best example of how a team can ride together to put a rider up on the podium or even win the race. I don’t think just because Thor’s gone things are going to change that much. We’re still going to go out there to win. Hopefully this year, i’m in a good enough shape to be in contention. It all depends on how things unfold coming up to the big ones. We’ll see after the semi-classics, then we’ll know what we need to do in Flanders and Roubaix.