When I was growing up in Australia, my friends and I would stay up really late at night and watch the Tour de France on television. It was one of the most exciting parts of my youth – eyes glued to the screen, mouth open, watching as my hero did battle in this far away country. It was like a dream with all those colourful jerseys, rivals locked in battle, their strength and will determining who would be covered in glory. Man, it’s giving me goosebumps just thinking about it.
And it was those moments that lay the foundations for my win in stage 13 of the Tour de France. Watching the Tour as a child convinced me to move to Europe and become a pro, with the dream of one day riding the Tour de France and, like my heroes, winning a stage in the Tour.
The night I won I lay in bed until two o’clock in the morning with all these thoughts whizzing around my head. I couldn’t sleep and I was full of energy, just reliving the stage over and over in my mind. I don’t want to brag, but if I’m in a break and it’s in those kind of conditions I think I’m virtually unbeatable.
Throughout the stage all I kept on thinking was: ‘don’t finish second, you can’t finish second again’. I’ve had enough of second places finishes, like the one earlier this year at Milan-San Remo behind Mark Cavendish.
When I was left with just Chavanel I knew that I was up against a great rider. I said in my press conference that I have a lot of respect for him and I mean that. We’ve been in a few breaks this year, including one at Paris-Nice, and I know how strong he is. But towards the end of the stage today he was starting to lose contact with me. I waited twice as I didn’t want to ride on my own all the way to the finish when we might have been able to share the work between us, but when I lost him for the third time my director sportif told me to press on.
I honestly didn’t know I was going to win until the final 500 hundred meters and when it dawned on me my emotions took over. I had my girlfriend, my sister and some of my great fans at the finish. It meant so much to me. Moments like that are why I ride my bike. You can’t get that feeling from anything else in the world.
Heinrich Haussler, now registered as an Australian, is back to take on the spring Classics with IAM Cycling.
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