If Heinrich Haussler didn’t have bad luck, he wouldn’t have any luck at all. After claiming his first win in two years at the Bayern Rundfahrt last month, the IAM Cycling man was cruelly brought back to earth at the Tour de Suisse, fracturing his hip and pelvis in a crash on stage 6.
Haussler spent two nights in hospital in Uster before returning home – “I’d been on the road already for six weeks before Suisse, between racing and altitude training and I just really wanted to get home,” he explained – and he will now spend the best part of three months off the bike as he faces into a lengthy rehabilitation process.
“If everything goes smoothly, I should be back on the bike within ten to twelve weeks. I just need a lot of patience at the moment,” Haussler told Cyclingnews. “It depends on how quickly it heals. I’m going to have to do a lot of physio and a lot of rehab because I can’t move my left leg really at all. The big problem is that I’m going to lose all of that muscle in the next six to eight weeks and then I’m going to have to build all of that back up again. But at least I didn’t need to get operated on and nothing’s crooked on the hip or pelvis, so it was a good break in that sense.”
Haussler, of course, is all too aware of the road he now has to travel and he is mindful, too, that it there are plenty of potential pitfalls along the way. A series of crashes in 2010 saw him undergo knee surgery in June of that year and, filled with the buoyancy of youth perhaps, his first instinct was to return to racing as quickly as possible. Now 29, experience has taught Haussler to be rather more cautious in the early stages of his latest comeback.
“I’ve really got to be careful this time and I can’t make the same mistake that I did in 2010 when I had the operation on my knee,” Haussler said. “I had six weeks off and then I just jumped straight back on my bike. That was the biggest mistake I’ve ever made and it continued on for over a year afterwards, I was just having problems again. I’ve just got to be really careful not to start too early and make sure everything’s OK.”
There have been false dawns aplenty for Haussler in the intervening period. After Cervélo merged with Garmin in 2011, he began life at his new team with a stage win at the Tour of Qatar but over the next two seasons, he struggled to recover the vim of his fine 2009 campaign.
Since making the switch to IAM Cycling during the off-season – and after six weeks of cross country skiing formed the base of his winter preparation – Haussler had enjoyed consistency this spring, performing well at Gent-Wevelgem and the Tour of Flanders in particular. He admitted that his hopes of improving on that next spring have been dented by his latest setback, given that the kilometres banked in the back end of one season are so often the foundation for achievement in the early part of the next.
“It’s a real pain in the arse. This year I was starting to get my legs back and I wanted to use the end of this year to get ready for the classics next year,” Haussler said. “Looking to next year, it’s going to be difficult in the classics when you don’t have that racing in your legs through the summer and the second half of the season. It’s going to be extremely hard. But as soon as I can train properly, I’ll be back doing everything I can.”
Haussler is thus left with something of a conundrum for the remainder of 2013. On paper, he ought to able to race again in the autumn and getting back into action before the season ends would certainly aid his winter preparation. Lodged at the back of his mind, however, are the nagging warnings from his previous knee injuries, and for now, he has no deadline for his comeback in mind.
“It’s hard to say right now, it all depends on how quickly I can get back on the bike and how it is when I get back on the bike,” Haussler said. “You always read about riders who break their hips coming back strong but then suddenly having problems again three months late, so I’m going to need a lot of help and advice from all the specialists so that I do everything perfectly.”
With another year left to run on his deal with IAM Cycling, the time frame of Haussler's rehabilitation at least won’t be affected by the pressure to secure a new contract. “The big boss came to see me and I’ve been getting calls all the time from the team. They’re very supportive,” Haussler said. “I really want to prove I can come back. It will be a long, hard road and a difficult one. But I think when you go through stuff like this, at the end of the day, it makes you harder.”