IAM Cycling starts its debut season in the WorldTour at the Tour Down Under with the newly crowned Australian national champion Heinrich Haussler hungry for stage wins. Having ridden at the Pro-Continental level for its first two seasons in the peloton, the Swiss team has joined the top level of the sport and is looking to make an impression in Australia, starting with the pre-race 51km People's Choice Classic criterium on Sunday night in Adelaide's East End.
"Every race is important to me," Haussler said in a pre-race press conference. "It doesn't matter if it's ProTour of just a normal criterium. I haven't really been doing much sprint training so it will be a good test to see how things going against the big guys like Marcel [Kittel] but I am definitely going for the win. We don't want to go there and just say 'We'll do a few laps.'
"We came out to Australia early really targeting nationals and Tour Down Under and you have to come out early. You can't come out the week before and expect to be flying. This time we are going to be working really hard and use every stage to try and win."
The 30-year-old explained that while he is still coming to terms with wearing the green and gold jersey on his shoulders, he doesn't want to give it up even though he is yet to race in it.
"It has been unreal, I am still kind of beside myself. Every time I get ready for training I see the jersey in the suitcase and go to put it on, it gives me a bit of a chill and a few goose bumps and it's something I am really going to wear with pride," he said.
"Now that I have it, I have already been saying to the team that we need to sign a few more Australians for next year as I definitely want to defend it. Once you have it you don't want to give it back. With the next two races here in Australia, it's really something special and to go back to Europe with it is really amazing.
Haussler's characterises can suit a bunch sprint finish, which is how stages one and six are expected to finish, however Haussler isn't considering himself a favourite when up against the pure speed of Marcel Kittel (Giant-Alpecin), instead stating his best chances are on the tougher finishes in Stirling and Mount Barker.
"Well stage one and six, going pedal stroke for pedal stroke with Marcel, his power is bigger than what I can push out. Marcel is a bit like Cav, even if he's not in top form, once a sprinter sees the finish line their brain switches and they can still produce that big power.
"I see my chances more for stages two and four but for stages one and six, I'll still try 100% for a stage win."
Haussler is also tipping new signing Jarlinson Pantano to impress on the general classification at the end of the race and the team to animate all six stages.
"We'll see how the next few stages unfold for our GC guy Pantano," he said. "He seems to be in really good form and climbing well but I am not too sure if the climbs will be too short for him. We will try to keep him up there and look after him on GC and even Dave Tanner. He is really going good at the moment and he could have an opportunity on stages two, three and four."
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