Heinrich Haussler (Garmin-Cervélo) arrived at the Tour of Qatar admitting that he was still not 100% after the knee injury that ruined his 2010 season, but the Australian showed that his recovery is continuing apace with a fine sprint victory at the Doha Golf Club.
Haussler was part of the 18-man breakaway that dominated Monday's opening road stage and he followed that up by beating Daniele Bennati (Leopard Trek) to take stage two. He is now second overall, just one second behind race leader Tom Boonen (Quick Step).
"Even yesterday I wasn't feeling really super, super fit, but my form's ok," Haussler said after winning the sprint at the Doha Golf Club. "I didn't really expect to win here either, but the team worked for me and said we're going to go for it, and it just worked out."
Keeping things in perspective
Haussler looks set to be an important player in the spring classics, but he was keen to keep things in perspective after his first win of the season.
"It's really important to start the season off with a good result," he explained. "Then you start the next race on a high and you build on that."
As was the case the previous day, the attacking started from kilometre zero during Tuesday's 1335.5km stage. However, the sprinters' teams, and in particular Haussler's Garmin-Cervélo cohorts, were careful to keep a tight rein on the day's escapees.
"We didn't want the group to get more than five minutes so we put Travis Meyer on the front," Haussler said. "He did an excellent job today, the whole team were unbelievable."
Garmin-Cervélo has been impressive on the opening two road stages of the Tour of Qatar, but Haussler admitted that the presence of a number of other strong Classics squads means that it is difficult for any one team to take a firm grip of the race.
"The final kilometre was just stress," he said. "There's so many strong teams here in Qatar this year and so many top sprinters. There were a lot of different teams taking the lead and it was just chaos, it was so fast."
The addition of a clutch of high-calibre talents from the defunct Cervélo TestTeam, including Haussler and world champion Thor Hushovd, has added considerable strength in depth to the revamped Garmin-Cervélo outfit for 2011. Haussler explained that his teammate Tyler Farrar's early success in Mallorca added to his own motivation in Qatar.
"The team's on such a high at the moment," he said. "Tyler Farrar got two wins in the past two days so I thought 'I need to get a win in there too.' It wasn't really expected but I'm happy with my form and I'm really happy with the way the team's working. It's perfect."
Now just a second off Tom Boonen's overall lead, Haussler and his teammates will make a concerted bid for the general classification in the coming days.
"It's still a lot of hard work," he said. "But hopefully we can some more wins in the next few days and try and get the yellow jersey."