• Heinrich Haussler was a controversial selection to the Australia team for the UCI Road World Championships. (Getty)Source: Getty
Surprise selection Heinrich Haussler has defended his place in the Australian team for the UCI Road Championships after being sidelined for virtually the entire season with a complex knee injury.
Sophie Smith

Cycling Central
20 Sep 2017 - 10:09 AM  UPDATED 20 Sep 2017 - 6:58 PM

The 33-year-old said he can effectively support title contender and designated leader Michael Matthews despite racing just 1900km over 10 days this year due to knee damage that has only gone unnoticeable this week.

“I can understand how some people might think … ‘why didn’t they take someone else?’ But Bling [Matthews] and I, we work well together,” Haussler said from his base in Germany.

“It’s not about taking guys who were good in January, or February or March. I honestly believe I’ll be able to do the job and I’ll be there to the end.

“It could also be the case that he [Matthews] wanted to have me there, I’m not sure.”

Haussler was injured shortly after the Qatar world titles in October last year. He has since endured multiple, invasive operations on his knee, which was aggravated further with a premature return to competition at the Four Days of Dunkirk in May.

The tedious recovery process has been as much a mental as a physical strain that forced the former Tour de France stage winner, in his first season with Bahrain-Merida, to reconsider his racing future.

“A few days ago, it was the first day I woke up and actually didn’t feel my knee, or touch or notice it walking around,” he said.

Haussler reconnoitred the course for Sunday’s 267.5km elite men’s road title with Matthews in April.

The former Australian national road champion said he has been in contact with compatriots vying for selection throughout the season.

The 2017 UCI Road World Championships will be held in Bergen, Norway from 167-24 September and will be broadcast on SBS Viceland and streamed online.

“Just in general, us Australians, we have a group chat we stay in contact [through], we email and have conference calls. The Australian team is a very tight team and we get on very well together,” Haussler said.

The 2009 Milan-San Remo runner-up sacrificed a German licence in a bid to represent Australia at the 2010 UCI Road World Championships in Geelong, Victoria, which he ultimately missed due to a different knee complaint that stemmed from a high-speed crash with Mark Cavendish at the Tour de Suisse.

Haussler wore green and gold at the Copenhagen titles a year later, piloting Matt Goss to a silver medal. Selections that year also spurred controversy with Haussler effectively chosen over lead-out specialist Mark Renshaw, a trade teammate of Cavendish, who won.

The classics specialist believes the outcome of this year’s elite men’s road race may be heavily influenced by the weather. He said a full complement of men would “definitely” aid Australia’s medal hopes, a contrast to sentiment from Cycling Australia administration that had considered sending an eight-man, over full quota nine-man, team.

“If it’s raining it’s going to be very difficult and will be like an elimination race over that distance,” Haussler said.
“The weather forecast for the moment is 18-19 degrees and sunny; if that’s the case it’s going to be a very fast race and we could even see 30-40 guys heading to the finish because there is a long run to the finish after the last climb … so a lot of time for teams to get together and pull back one or two riders away.

“It’s a typical classics course. It’s also about positioning, saving energy.”

Haussler will enter the titles on the back of the GP de Quebec and GP de Montreal.

“I’m very fit, my numbers are very good but obviously I’m missing that racing condition – jumping out of corners at high, top-end power, speed. But it’s been something I’ve been working on in training a lot. It’s hard to simulate racing but these last two races in Canada were really, really hard and I’m still building,” he said.

“My season is starting now unlike a lot of the guys in the peloton, [who are] trying to hold onto something or get through the next two or three weeks. These races are going to make me stronger.”

Sophie Smith’s exclusive interview with Haussler is available in full on the Zwift SBS Cycling podcast channel.

Zwift SBS Cycling Podcast - Haussler is fit and ready to put 'Bling' in rainbow
The Zwift SBS Cycling podcast crew this week has a look at the world championships and a cheeky look at what's making news in the world of cycling this week.