When Heinrich Haussler (IAM Cycling) won stage 13 of the 2009 Tour de France, his post-race interview revealed the 'German' with an Australian accent. Born in Australia to a German father and Australian mother, Haussler moved to Germany at the age of 14 with the dream of racing professionally and in 2005 his dream became reality as he signed for Gerolsteiner on a German license and then won the third time trial of the Vuelta a España.
With the desire of racing the Australian Worlds in 2010, Haussler announced in July of that year he would give up his German citizenship and race for his country of birth. A knee injury meant he missed the Worlds but victory at the 2015 Australian national road race championships is the ultimate justification of his decision.
"It means everything to me," Haussler said of the win. "Even when they were playing the national anthem I had to hold back otherwise the tears were coming to come down, there have been a lot of bad years where you go to races and get dropped and guys go up the road and attack and in the sprint you just can’t follow and you think 'what’s the matter?’ I knew it would come back eventually but you have to put in the hard work."
While Haussler's palmares of 18 victories include grand tour stage wins, however his second place to Mark Cavendish at Milan San-Remo by millimetres on 2009 and four-straight second places to Peter Sagan at the 2012 Tour of California has reflected his fortunes since his Tour win.
"The Tour de France is the Tour de France, but I am not saying I've been through hell, but the ups and down that I have been through, this is definitely on that level," Haussler said of winning the national title.
Since the end of the Cevelo Test Team in 2010, Haussler spent two season with the Garmin squad with few results to speak of. He joined IAM Cycling as a foundation rider in 2013, stepping down to Pro-Continental level but his performances as the classics proved it to be a wise decision with sixth at the Tour of Flanders and fourth at Gent–Wevelgem.
Last year's classics campaign wasn't good for Haussler with sickness curtailing his performances but he bounced back to win the opening stage of Bayern Rundfahrt.
Haussler now starts the new season as the national champion and with IAM Cycling moving up to the WorldTour, a full classics campaign is assured and he belives the team will do big things in 2015.
"The team has really stepped up," he said. "We have a lot of good new riders and there has been a change in management and everything’s has just changed. At the end of the season everything will be saying 'where did I AM come from?’ I think it's just a good team."
He may have been down-and-out, but Haussler explained that the feeling of crossing the line first keep has enough motivation to continue as a professional cyclist.
"Once you've had the taste of winning in you, that sensation of emotion, that’s what is all worth it for," he said of what keeps him racing. "The hard work of going out on the bike every day and sacrificing everything basically, your relationship, relationships with friends, your whole lifestyle but it’s worth it. 'd do it all over and over again. That's the way cycling is, you have injuries you crash but you come back and that's what makes you a rider. You fall down but you have to come back up and you come back even stronger."
Haussler will debut his green and gold jersey at the Tour Down Under next week as he looks to continue his winning form before targeting the classics with his entire season based around them.
"I want to go to Down Under and try to win a stage now. That will be hard but that's the goal and then build form for the classics. I got this block in front of me with the Tour Down Under, the Cadel Evans Great Ocean Road Race and then I go straight to Qatar, then four weeks off the bike and before I start up for the classics again so it's going to be the next big goal.
"It's my passion, it's my love and it's what I want to get ready for. It's going to be really really hard to get a good result there but that’s what I want to do. Maybe it is one the last years that San Remo is going to end in a sprint before they put bigger climbs in it. Definitely San Remo, than Flanders and Roubaix [will be my big goals of 2015].
"I told the team that I don't want to do Tour because I want to rest after the classics to build up for one-day races later in the season and then the Worlds."