Heinrich Haussler (Garmin-Cervélo) has emphasised the importance of team tactics at the spring classics. He is one of seven riders who arrived at the Slipstream Sports set-up this year after Cervélo TestTeam folded at the end of the 2010 season, and he believes the revamped squad now boasts the strongest classics line-up.
"It's going to be stronger because if you look at the classics riders from Garmin and then Cervélo, with those two teams combined, then for me, we're the strongest team," Haussler told Cyclingnews in Doha ahead of the Tour of Qatar. "Hopefully we'll have a bit more luck than last year."
With a classics team containing talents such as Haussler, world champion Thor Hushovd and Tyler Farrar, Garmin-Cervélo appear on paper to have more strength in depth than any other squad, and Haussler believes this could be telling come April.
"The classics are always getting harder and harder each year," he said "I don't know, maybe it's that the races are getting more important, but teams are just getting stronger every year and team tactics play more of a role."
However, Haussler also acknowledged that a particularly strong individual performance can sometimes upset the best-laid plans of even the best-drilled teams.
"Of course if Cancellara is going to be as strong as he was last year, it's going to be really, really hard, and then there's also Gilbert," he said. "But we're going to have more of an advantage than we did last year with Cervélo because we've got guys like Farrar, Vansummeren, Maaskant and Millar, all guys that have shown themselves in the classics or been in the top ten, so if it all goes well then we'll have a really strong team and some good results."
After a fine 2009 season, Haussler was frustrated by knee problems throughout last year after crashing at the Volta ao Algarve. He eventually underwent surgery in June and explained that his recovery is still ongoing.
"I don't want to whinge about it but it's still not 100 per cent, down the left hand side of my body because after the operation I had a lot of time off my bike, so I have to build the strength in my left side up," he said. "Over the winter I was training good but when I went to the training camp I had a few problems with my Achilles but I'm still at the level where I want to be, so all is good."
With the season cranking into action, Haussler is confident that a combination of corrective training and racing miles will see him back to the peak of his powers by the time the classics come around.
"I've just been working a lot on my core and building it up so that both sides are equal," he said. "It's something that you can't do in a couple of days, it takes a long time, but the more riding I do the better."
Haussler begins his campaign in earnest at the Tour of Qatar, which kicks off in Doha on Sunday, and he is bullish about Garmin-Cervélo's chances in the race.
"We want to want to ride strong as a team and we definitely want to win," he said.
"If we came here to be second or third, then we're in the wrong sport."
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Barry Ryan is Head of Features at Cyclingnews. He has covered professional cycling since 2010, reporting from the Tour de France, Giro d’Italia and events from Argentina to Japan. His writing has appeared in The Independent, Procycling and Cycling Plus. He is the author of The Ascent: Sean Kelly, Stephen Roche and the Rise of Irish Cycling’s Golden Generation, published by Gill Books.