By Susan Westemeyer
Heinrich Haussler surely had other plans for the 2007 season. Knee problems held him back at the beginning of the year and then he had his wisdom teeth pulled. But at least he was ready to start racing again, and made his season debut in Paris-Nice. And it wasn't a pretty sight.
"The five-kilometre prologue was really hard. I really had to torture myself. My form is simply not there," he wrote on radsport-aktiv.de.
The first stage "wasn't as difficult as expected," but he noted that he's not able to ride with the best. In the second stage he had to drop back only 1000 meters before the finish, saying "The form just isn't there."
He bounced back enough in the third stage to not only join a breakaway group, but to take over a jersey. "I was able to win all the mountain rankings and so took over the jersey for the best climber of the race." His escape was ended three kilometres before the finish, and after the race he "was pretty tired."
Haussler paid for that the next day, saying "You wouldn't believe how tired I was today." He was able to defend his mountain jersey, and teammate Davide Rebellin took over the leader's jersey.
And then came stage 5. "Today was the worst day in my whole cycling career." The team had to ride all out in order to defend the yellow jersey, and on top of that, Haussler forgot to eat. He had to drop back with some 50 kilometres left "and then I had to ride alone behind the field. I could hardly see and at some times on the flat I was only going about 12 kilometres an hour. Finally, I began counting down the kilometres. At last I finally came to the finish, thank goodness -- as the last one in. And without even trying, I was able to defend my mountain jersey."
It all proved too much for the young German-Australian rider, and he abandoned in Saturday's stage.