By Susan Westemeyer
Heinrich Haussler says that 2008 was "a very bad year for German cycling" and at times he thought the sport wouldn't survive. The two doping cases at Team Gerolsteiner made it difficult for their German teammates to find new teams.
"Most of the other teams don't want anything to do with German riders, because of the German media," he told Cyclingnews. "There were times after the Tour when I thought that within two or three years there won't be any place for German cyclists, and I would have to look for a new line of work."
The 24-year-old told Cyclingnews he was surprised when team manager Hans-Michael Holczer was unable to find a new sponsor, but added, "It's probably good that it happened, because of the two doping riders on the team. If Holczer had found a sponsor, the sponsor probably would have quit anyway."
Those "two doping riders", Stefan Schumacher and Bernhard Kohl, tested positive for CERA at the Tour de France. Haussler said that he didn't want to address them specifically, but said, "I don't know how riders can still be that stupid as to be using dope, especially in Germany."
"Cycling is finished there, races are being cancelled, sponsors aren't there any more. It is lucky that Milram is still there. If Milram leaves, there is nothing," he noted.
Despite the bitter end for the team, Haussler found his time with Gerolsteiner to have been good. It was especially "perfect when I came up to the team, perfect for a young rider to work his way up in to the pros, to slowly work your way up."
Haussler turned pro with the German ProTour team in 2005 at the age of 20. Having dual citizenship, he had moved from Australia to Germany at the age of 15 to pursue his dream of becoming a pro cyclist. While at Gerolsteiner he brought in a number of wins, including a stage in the Vuelta a España in 2005.
The German-Australian is one of the last of the Gerolsteiner riders to announce his new team. The contract has long since been signed, he said, and the announcement should be made any day now.
At the moment Haussler is in St. Moritz, Switzerland, doing some cross-country skiing. He will stay there until Christmas before returning to his home in Freiburg, Germany, to start his road training. He will not be flying home to Australia this year. "I would have liked to have gone to my parents for Christmas, but for only three weeks it is too difficult, with the time change and the weather difference and the loss of training."