By Jean-François Quénet in La Chapelle-Saint-Ursin, France
Heinrich Haussler (Cervélo TestTeam) fired a warning at his rivals after winning the second stage of Paris-Nice. While Haussler says he won't be going all out for more stage wins, he cautioned his competitors against complacency.
"I came here to win a stage. I've done that now. One or two more might come," he smiled. "My form is very good. I have to take it easy. I had two weeks off after the Vuelta then I started training again, so I have got to be careful. I don't want to go too deep here because if you do, then you stuff up Milano-Sanremo and if you mess up there you spoil [your chances] at Flanders as well."
Haussler's abilities have been known for some time but the Australia-born rider has come out of his shell in 2009, already claiming as many victories as he had in the previous two seasons combined. Despite an impressive sprint at La Chapelle-Saint-Ursin it didn't unfold the way he had hoped.
"The sprint wasn't too good," he said. "We pretty much used up all our boys in the cross winds. It broke up. [José Angel] Gomez Marchante was at the back with the Spanish riders then Jeremy [Hunt] and Hayden [Roulston] were on the front working all the time. Normally they'd lead me out but at the end I didn't really have anyone there. Hayden put me up, they used their last energy to put me up there at the last kilometre.
"I was behind Mark Renshaw and the boys from Columbia," he added. "The wind was coming more from the front, then the side. They started to die on the right side. There were some riders coming along so I thought, 'I've got to go now'. I was telling myself, 'this is too early'. I went at 350 metres to go from behind and it was enough. With 300 metres to go I was on the front and I thought 'oh my god it's too early'. There was a head wind but luckily enough I had such a big gap I didn't get caught at the end, so it was perfect."
Two years ago a young Haussler surprised not only because he won stage one of the Criterium du Dauphiné Libéré but because of the big guns he outsprinted: Tom Boonen, Thor Hushovd, Graeme Brown and André Greipel. He was humble and held no pretensions of having reached their level. "I'm sticking my nose in and getting a bit of a sniff of what it's like," he said at the time, although this latest result reveals he may be a lot closer now.
Born in Inverell, New South Wales, the German is no longer a beginner. His move to Cervélo TestTeam after Gerolsteiner closed its doors seems to have given the 25-year-old a boost. Haussler finished second overall in the Tour of Qatar, won two stages in the Tour of Algarve and came eighth in the Omloop Het Nieuwsblad, won by his teammate Thor Hushovd.
"It's a new team and I wanted to put my mark in the team by riding well from the start," said Haussler. "I'm a good rider. I didn't want to be a rider like I was at Gerolsteiner. I mean, I did get a lot of help at Gerolsteiner, but not the help that I've got here. The whole team is behind me and I trained really, really hard in the winter."