Haussler will embark on a career 13th participation at the Monument today, navigating the sacrifices required to be a contender with the complexity of being a parent to twin boys.
“Being home between Flanders and Roubaix I was absolutely on the limit. I came here last night, I could get eight hours sleep and oh my God I feel so much better,” he told Cycling Central on the way back from a course recon on Friday.
“For sure there are some wives out there who will read this and say what an idiot, what an arrogant arsehole, or some shit, but it’s different. You go home and it is absolute full gas. Someone that doesn’t have kids, they have absolutely no idea how it is.”
Haussler finished 20th at the race last season – three minutes and seven seconds in arrears of winner Peter Sagan (BORA-hansgrohe), who beat Silvan Dillier (AG2R) in a two-up sprint in the velodrome.
The 35-year-old has competed in nearly every edition of Paris-Roubaix since he turned professional with Gerolsteiner in 2005. He placed a career best sixth in 2016, was seventh in 2009 and 11th in 2013.
“I said to my wife, ‘Hey baby, come on, after Sunday the season is finished, after Sunday we can do whatever you want. Just keep my back free, support me until Sunday and then it’s all good.’ After Sunday it’s finished. And it is for all the classics guys that really love these cobbles,” he continues.
The Tour de France stage winner has been preparing for his 2019 assault since the race finished last year, such is his revere for the cobbles.
“The week after Sunday you start thinking about next year – how can I do it better, is the race program good, what can I do about the training camps. You go through everything,” Haussler says.
“I, for example, always write after the race how the weather conditions were, where the wind was coming from, where the race exploded, what tyre pressure I had, if it was wet.
“It’s fun and the cobbles are real racing. You’re not up there by chance. If you’re up there that means you have the legs and you’re a strong rider. Roubaix especially just cuts your whole body, you come to the finish and your whole body is a complete mess, muscles are ruined.”
Haussler will enter Paris-Roubaix on the back of a 33rd place finish at the Tour of Flanders. He lost time and energy with a puncture before the Muur but felt good in the race despite suffering from intermittent illness this year.
“I didn’t get a bloody [spare] wheel until the downhill after the Muur so I was way back and had to chase like crazy. I got back [on] still feeling good but in the end, I didn’t have the legs to go with the first group. That’s the way it is," he says.
“Since UAE Tour, and it’s no excuses, I haven’t been feeling good and always half sick. So as soon as you go, you go above threshold [and] you feel like you have asthma.”
The course recon on Friday was especially important to Haussler’s teammate Matej Mohorič, who will have the primary protected role in his race debut with Bahrain-Merida.
Race-specific experience is typically considered imperative to victory but Haussler believes to a degree that kids and veterans alike can challenge in a spectacle with many mitigating factors.
“Roubaix is also a completely different race and you also need a bit of luck. I’ve only gotten through Roubaix three times in my career without a flat tyre; two of those times I was sixth [sixth and seventh – ed.] and the other time I was 11th,” he says.
“You need the experience, confidence and coolness in just waiting. If you go one or two times too deep and try to attack too early, especially into a headwind, you’re throwing your energy and power away, which will be missing in that last 30-40km.”
Haussler observed a dry course and estimated a potential headwind or cross-headwind could see up to 25 men battle for line honours in the Roubaix velodrome.
“There are no wet spots and no rain predicted so it’s going to be pretty straight forward. All the classics, the level is very even now,” he says.