• Heinrich Haussler at 2018 Kuurne Brussels Kuurne (Getty)Source: Getty
With the Australian, Bahrain Merida will hunt stage wins or podiums in the opening sprint stages.
Cycling Central

Bahrain Merida
2 Mar 2018 - 8:26 AM  UPDATED 2 Mar 2018 - 8:37 AM

At the 76th Paris-Nice, kicking off this Monday morning live on SBS, Bahrain Merida will look to Haussler and Ivan Cortina for the opening three sprint stages. And the Australian is feeling feisty.

"I am feeling strong and ready for Paris-Nice," Haussler said.

The 34-year-old returned to racing in 2018 at last weekend's Kuurne-Brussels-Kuurne following a broken collarbone while training in January. 

Haussler suffers another setback
Former Australian road champion Heinrich Haussler is nursing a fractured collarbone after a training crash.

It was another injury in a long line of setbacks for the Australian which looked set to turn around after last year's road world championships where he helped Michael Matthews to a bronze medal.

Haussler finished 77th overall - teammate Sonny Colbrelli third - last weekend in Kuurne, but animated much of the race as part of a 20 rider group that broke away on the Oude Kwaremont. The move didn't stick but it demonstrated Haussler's resilience and underlying form. 

"I haven’t ridden a Tour in a very long time so I’m excited to be out there with the team and test my legs with the rest of the peloton. It’s a great race to build the form for the upcoming one-day races."

Beyond Haussler, the team looks to the Izagirre brothers, Gorka freshly poached from Movistar, to perform strongly overall in a race made tougher by the snowy conditions currently facing Europe. 

"It's a pretty tough race," Bahrain Merida sports director Gorazd Stangejl said. "On the first three sprint stages, our goal will be to protect our leaders, to avoid crashes and to finish the race in time with the winner. Of course we will try to aim for the podium with Haussler and Cortina, but not at any price."

"The truly difficult stages will be the last few, after the time trial on the fourth stage. But with two leaders we will certainly be stronger and more flexible." 

The Izagirres will hope to let loose also on the queen stage: stage seven's four intermediate climbs plus the final  16 kilometre, 6.2 per cent gradient climb. 

Bahrain Merida to 2018 Paris-Nice: Ivan Cortina, Heinrich Haussler, Ion Izagirre, Gorka Izagirre, Manuele Boaro, Antonio Nibali and Luka Pibernik.

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