With the Spring Classics usually well under way by this time, but with no racing due for the foreseeable future due to the Covid-19 coronavirus pandemic, we've dug out our chats with some of the sport's most-well-known personalities as they pick their dream teams for the Spring Classics.
Next up is Bahrain McLaren Classics specialist Heinrich Haussler – the veteran Australian-German who boasts wins in stages of both the Tour de France and the Vuelta a España, and came within a whisker of winning the 2009 Milan-San Remo, when he was beaten on the line by a fast-finishing Mark Cavendish, who nevertheless features in this team.
- Dream teams must feature eight riders, one of which can be the rider selecting the team – in which case they pick seven riders to join them.
- The riders picked must have all ridden with the person picking the team. That means you can't just pick the seven or eight best riders of a generation.
I made two lists. The first was just me and the Cervelo [TestTeam] guys, but that would be pretty boring, so the second team focuses on the Classics and sprints. I wouldn't bother much with the GC, but I've selected one wildcard in Dylan Teuns.
I've picked this team as one that could work together from day one and would start winning right away. A successful team isn't just about pushing the watts and having strong riders - a team has to gel, and it has to be like a family.
Heinrich Haussler (Bahrain McLaren)
Which role I would have on this team is a really good question. I'd be there to help 'Cav' [Mark Cavendish] in the lead-outs and support the guys in the Classics, but I have to be honest: I'd only be a leader if I was selecting myself at my 2009 level. Anything else and Sep and Oliver would be the leaders, and I'd be a more than willing domestique.
Dylan Teuns (Bahrain McLaren)
Dylan's in the team purely because of his results in 2019, and the way he rode a number of races. He had the leader's jersey at the Critérium du Dauphiné, he wore the jersey at the Vuelta a España, and won a stage at the Tour de France.
He can time trial, climb, ride the Classics and win sprints from small groups. You can use him anywhere, and if you're targeting WorldTour points, you're going to go home with a bucket of them when Dylan is racing.
He also doesn't need an entire team built around him when it comes to targeting races. As a teammate, he's relaxed and keeps things simple. That's another reason why he's in my roster. Some big captains can be arrogant but I've never seen Dylan lose his head over anything. He's not a princess and nothing seems to bother him.
Last year, at the Vuelta, he missed out on a win from the break on one of the stages but that evening he told us straight up that he was going to try again, but that this time he was going to take the leader's jersey. The next day he went in the break, and finishes second, but took a heap of time on the bunch. We all rolled in a few minutes later to the sight of him walking towards the podium. We all looked at each other thinking, 'What the hell?' But he was pulling on the jersey, just like that. He can do the cobbles, the Ardennes and the Grand Tours and his versatility is massive.
Andreas Klier (Cervelo)
He's my road captain. The way he leads a team is just incredible and what he did in that role blew my mind. We didn't even need directors in the car when we had Andreas – they were just there if we had a flat or needed a bottle – and it's fair to say that I knew nothing about the Classics until I rode with him. What stood out wasn't just his knowledge but the fact that he was willing to pass it on. There are a lot of riders who find that part of the sport really tough. They don't want to let go in case it costs them, because at the end of the day they're looking after themselves, but Andreas was utterly devoted to the idea of a team.
It all started at the Tour of Qatar in 2009 when we were on Cervelo. None of us knew how to ride in the wind but he made these little maps, with stick men, and showed us what we needed to do. We all sat around thinking we didn't have a chance and that we couldn't follow him but, on stage 1, the race blew to pieces. We all followed Andreas' instructions and, from a front group of around 10, six of us were from Cervelo. Roger Hammond won the stage and from that moment Andreas was king. We couldn't believe it. I'd room with him a lot of the time and he had a big influence on my life off the bike. I was young back then and thought I knew it all but he would always offer advice on how I needed to conduct myself and how I need to manage my life. He taught me to look to the future.
There was also the time in 2009 when Thor Hushovd wasn't happy with my lead-out in a sprint at the Tour de Suisse and it looked like the team weren't going to take me the Tour de France. Andreas talked to me and he gave me advice on how to handle the situation. I went to talk to Thor and our manager and promised them 100 per cent commitment, and Andreas was basically the middleman.
You have to remember that I had come from Gerolsteiner, where there had been no real leadership or focus on the Classics, so I didn't know how to handle a lot of situations. Without Andreas, I would have been lost in a number of ways.
Marcel Sieberg (Bahrain McLaren)
He never stops talking. Ever. But I'd have to have Marcel on my team. I've only been on the same trade team as him for the last year-and-a-half but we grew up racing together and spent time on the German national team. I've always seen the way in which he's ridden, and he has some similarities with Andreas. But whereas Andreas is the road captain at the start of races, Marcel takes up that mantle deeper into the finale. He can lead out into that last sector or cobbles or set you up in the sprint, and what stands out is the fact that you can always rely on him. It doesn't matter if his form is crap or he's not feeling great, he will always drop you off in the right position. He's Mr Reliable and a class act.
At a young age, I think he figured out what he needed to do in the sport in order to make a career for himself. Maybe he doesn't have the biggest engine but he understands his job and he understands his sport. There are so many guys out there that have no idea, and it's hard to find guys like Marcel these days.
In terms of keeping spirits high, he's crucial. I've never seen him in a bad mood, and, like I said, he doesn't stop talking. We had training camp earlier in the year and I was rooming with Fred Wright, and every night I'd have to bang on the wall to the room next door and tell Marcel to shut up because it was just non-stop, but other than that he's got to be in my team.
Mark Cavendish (Bahrain McLaren)
We were massive rivals in 2009. At the Tour that year, we were trying absolutely everything to try to flick each other, but that's just the way it was. I remember being on the podium in San Remo that year, and I was so angry and disappointed. Anyone could have won except for Cav.
But look, that was many years ago, and, in a way, it was good that we were rivals in that manner. We had that crash at the Tour de Suisse and for a number of years we didn't really talk to each other. We'd have a go at each other in the odd sprint, but time has passed and we're both a lot older and more mature. I can say now that he's a good guy and I'd actually say that we're friends. I'm not sure what he would say, but we talk on the phone and he would be good for this team.
We saw at the Saudi Tour that he has a lot of good knowledge, which we didn't know, and having him on the team boosted our confidence hugely. If he's in the team and we're working for the sprint, everyone knows that they have to perform. We all raise our game when Cav races.
He came to the team at the start of the year and, honestly, he's been great. I like his way of training – he goes hard, and half-wheels us – and he's made a massive effort to integrate. It's small gestures, like spending time with everyone after dinner and just talking rubbish, but those things are often overlooked and they really matter when you're creating the right atmosphere. Bahrain McLaren are really good at that.
Gabriel Rasch (Cervelo)
I'd barely heard of him before Cervelo, but every team needs a 'Gabba' – someone who can bring back all the attacks, and all the breaks when you need to chase. There were times when he would ride at the front all day and still be there at the finish. Andreas would tell him that his finish line would be at 150km, but after 240km he'd still be there.
He was only there for the team and he never thought about himself. The sport has changed in the last 10 years but Gabba is similar to someone like Tim Declercq at Deceuninck-QuickStep.
Sep Vanmarcke (Garmin)
Back then, when we were in Garmin, Thor and I were the protected riders, but I'll never forget the time when Sep stood up in the [2012 Omloop Het Nieuwsblad] pre-race meeting and said, 'No, I'm going to win tomorrow – we're going to work for me.'
We were almost laughing in his face and thinking, 'Who the hell is this?' But the next day he was that strong that he pretty much rode everyone off his wheel and then smashed Boonen in the sprint. That's something I'll never forget.
He's been close to winning a Monument on a number of occasions, but with the team that I've picked – and this isn't a criticism of EF Pro Cycling, where he is now – I think he'd win a Tour of Flanders or a Paris-Roubaix. He's just such a strong rider, and he goes out there and just attacks, and that's something that I love.
I had so much respect after he stood up in the meeting and then delivered the next day. To put your balls on the table like that when we had Thor, Tyler Farrar and me… That took guts.
Oliver Naesen (IAM Cycling)
Not just one of the biggest engines in the peloton but also a really down-to-earth and normal person. One thing that stood out for me was when Rik Verbrugghe wanted to bring him to IAM, and in December I went up to Belgium to train. I sometimes do that in the winter in case there's a change in equipment sponsors, like frames or tyres. It gives you the chance to test what you have before you start racing, and you can dial things in.
I hooked up with Dries Devenyns, Rik and Oli. We were getting ready to ride, and Oli realised that he'd not brought his shoes. Luckily, I had two pairs with me, and he put them on without changing the cleats or having insoles, and we went out and did a 160km ride. He completely smashed me on the climbs and I couldn't believe it. He passed me on the flat part of the Kwaremont as if he was a racehorse. I said to Rik after the ride that he had to sign him.
What's also good about Oli and Sep is that, after the Classics, they switch focus and start working for the team.