By Bjorn Haake in Wevelgem
Heinrich Haussler of Gerolsteiner wanted to use Gent-Wevelgem to wipe out some bad short term, as well as long term memories. Exactly one year ago he crashed on the Kemmelberg, along with many others, in dry conditions. "I don't have good memories on the Kemmelberg," he reflected before the start. "But today (Wednesday) is a bit different," confirming that the asphalt downhill should be better to handle for everyone. "If we are lucky we will get through it alright."
His directeur sportif, Christian Henn, concurred. "Something had to be done, after the crashes in the previous years. Even when it is dry, the riders lose the bottles, which will open and make the roads wet. Then, when somebody brakes in the back, there are going to be crashes." Henn was well prepared, having studied video footage from the recent Driedaagse van West-Vlaanderen , where they rode down the same way.
The short term memory to be erased stemmed from the Ronde van Vlaanderen. Haussler told Cyclingnews that "Flanders was a disappointment for me," and he wanted to use Gent-Wevelgem to redeem himself. "Today I am feeling well [and] I want to show something. In Flanders, my legs were OK, but not super great." At least he didn't have much trouble with the weather on Sunday. "I don't like it [hail and rain], but I have less trouble than some other riders... Some will have bad legs and lack the desire to ride in such conditions. "
This should be good for Paris-Roubaix, where the weather is expected to be somewhat the same as in Flanders. But the 24 year-old cautioned that "I have to be realistic. I can't be in the top five. But if I get into the first 20, I'd be happy. For me, Roubaix on Sunday is important."
A quick learner, Haussler knew exactly where it went wrong for him in Flanders. "I hit the Kwaremont too far back. I had to get off and walk because of others in front of me who walked. I had overshoes on, which loosened when I walked up. Then I couldn't get into my pedals at the top and had to take off the overshoes. That took some extra time." He reflected that "if you don't hit the Kwaremont with the first 30, it is over, except when you are as strong as someone like Cancellara."
But the first shock was the Molenberg. "I thought 'If they are already walking here than we will never be able to get up the Kwaremont'," Haussler commented on the traffic jam that formed through the narrow cobbled climb.
Haussler successfully erased the bad memories. For one, he didn't crash and looked comfortable and smooth, hitting the tight right-hand turn the second time down the Kemmelberg, safely tucked away in the single-filed peloton. Secondly, he cracked the top ten.
Henn had predicted a possible sprint finish to Cyclingnews before the race. "Today there is little wind and it looks like there may be a sprint. Of course that doesn't mean there will be a sprint, but the prerequisites are there that a bigger group will arrive and then we bank on Heinrich Haussler, sure."
After the race, Henn was happy. "This is a good result. In that sprint it was really difficult to position yourself well. Maybe with a better position a better result would have been possible. But the trend is definitely going upward." It was a welcome change from recent races. "The Tour of Flanders and also before, [in] Harelbeke [E3 Prijs], we weren't super bad, but it's just not our terrain."
In the end, the Aussie-German rider could be happy with having overcome his experiences from the past year and will now concentrate again on extending his palmarès.
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