Heinrich Haussler, Cervélo’s joker in the pack was finally let off the leash on today’s stage from Vittel to Colmar, as he soloed to his first stage in win the Tour de France. The 25-year-old was signed from the defunct Gerlosteiner at the end of last year under the strict instructions of Cervélo’s then director sportif, Scott Sunderland, and he put aside what has so far been a difficult Tour de France with a win that brought him to tears at the finishline.
"It’s the Tour, the biggest race in the world; it means a lot to me and you could see that at the finish. I really tired hard today and couldn’t hold the tears back," Haussler said in his post-race press conference.
Haussler had endured a frustrating Tour to date, dutifully putting aside his personal aspirations to work for green jersey contender Thor Hushovd and defending champion Carlos Sastre. He carried despite a crash on the stage to Barcelona – a stage that Hushovd went on to win – and difficulties with a saddle sore and the heat.
However, today’s wet conditions brought back memories of Haussler's successful Classics campaign as he escaped with fellow specialist Sylvain Chavanel (Quick Step) and Ruben Perez Moreno (Euskatel-Euskadi). "I go better in the cold. I know it sounds strange but I’d rather it was cold and raining than hot so when I saw the forecast for today I knew I was in with a chance. I know Sylvain from the Classics and really respect him, but I knew that it was going to be difficult at the end."
On the descent of the Col du Platzerwasel, Chavanel did indeed start to tire. "I didn’t know if he was playing with me when he wasn’t coming through for the turns and with the bunch coming up from behind I made my move."
Debut stage win aside, Haussler’s press conference was dominated by questions surrounding his national identity for the future. Born in Australia to a German father and Australian mother, the family moved to Europe with a 14-year-old Heinrich to pursue his dreams of becoming a professional rider. With dual nationality secured and a base in Germany, he quickly assimilated himself into the culture. However, come next year Haussler will be defecting to his Australian roots. He expects to be riding for his birth country at both the World Championships in Geelong, Victoria in 2010 and, presumably, the Olympics in 2012.
"My dream was to turn to pro and cycling in Australia is getting bigger there but at the time cycling was Europe. As I get older I feel more Australian and it’s been in the back of my head for a few years," Haussler said.
"I was at Gerolsteiner for a few years and the team wanted me to remain German so they a had more German riders, but now that I’m at Cervélo it doesn’t really matter that much. I feel like Australia is my home and when I retire that’s where I want to live."
German or Australian, Haussler has a few more successful years ahead of him before he needs to think about retirement plans.