Former German champion Claudia Häusler feels she is finally finding her top level after two seasons of struggles. The Team Tibco rider went on the attack on the final stage of the Redlands Bicycle Classic to win the mountains classification, showing the kind of climbing prowess that propelled her to overall victories in the Tour de l'Aude and Giro Donne in 2009.
Häusler was normally a feared stage race contender, battling the likes of Emma Pooley, Mara Abbott, Marianne Vos and Emma Johansson for victory in the mountainous stage races, but ever since a crash in the 2010 Giro della Toscana that left her unconscious for 10 minutes and in the hospital for several days with a brain hemorrhage, she's been fighting to get back to that level.
"I didn't expect that [the injury] was that bad, but looking back it is possible that it was because of the crash that I had one really bad season, and it was hard to come back to the top level. Looking back I have the feeling the body would get to one level and not any higher. Now I feel like I can reach my personal top level again."
At the same time she was recovering from her crash, her Cervelo TestTeam disbanded, and Häusler jumped from team to team: first with Diadora Pasta Zara, then with Orica-AIS, and now with Tibco, but the position with the American squad is a sort of homecoming, as she is reunited with her former Cervelo directeur sportif Manel Lacambra.
"I'm absolutely happy to race with Manel again, with him I won a lot of races like those in 2009 - for me he's the best director," Häusler said. "It's not my character to change teams so often, but the decision with GreenEdge wasn't mine. It was because one of the main sponsors is the AIS and they wanted to support the Australian riders. They didn't want more European riders. But I'm happy here - when one door closes, another opens."
The Redlands race was Häusler's first foray into American racing, but the strength of riders like overall race winner Alison Powers and the difficulty of the final stage, where she entered into a breakaway with Abbott but couldn't quite stick with the 2010 Giro Donne champion, left a positive impression.
"I know the American riders are very strong. [The racing] a bit different than the European races, but I must say it's a very high level of power which has been characteristic of these races."