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Haussler finally in position at Ghent-Wevelgem to continue classics comeback

GHENT, Belgium (VN) — Heinrich Haussler continued his impressive classics ride with new team IAM Cycling on Sunday. The Aussie launched the winning escape group with his attack and sprinted to fourth yesterday in Ghent-Wevelgem.

“Like I’ve been saying, I have good legs and my form’s coming,” Haussler said. “Just like in Milano-Sanremo and E3 Harelbeke, it was just about positioning and wasn’t the legs.”

He leaned against the team’s bus after the finish and caught his breath, frequently looking down at his left palm that was still bloody from a crash in Paris-Nice.

A cold air whipped between the buses, but Haussler did not mind. He said that he had been “sweating like a pig” during the race that started at 28 degrees Fahrenheit and was shortened due to overnight snowfall.

The weather didn’t bother the German-Australian all-rounder, but his poor positioning in the key moments at Sanremo and Harelbeke did.

“I’ve been saying the whole start of the season now that my legs are back again. I have the sensations again. The results just haven’t been there,” Haussler said. “It’s just all about positioning, too. In Sanremo and Harelbeke, I felt really good, but I just stuffed it up before the Taaienberg. I really got to work on my positioning.”

Haussler missed the key moves at both races, finishing 14th in Sanremo and 11th in Harelbeke, but made sure he didn’t do the same on Sunday when he attacked with 60km to go.

Stepping back to IAM Cycling is working for Haussler

The bus Haussler leaned on in Wevelgem was slightly smaller than the rival teams’ buses nearby — a sign that IAM competes in the second division in its debut season. Stepping back from the WorldTour is doing Haussler some good. He achieved his best results racing for the UCI Pro Continental Cervélo TestTeam in 2009 and 2010: a Tour de France stage win and a round of second places in Milano-Sanremo, Ronde van Vlaanderen (Tour of Flanders), and Omloop Het Nieuwsblad.

When the Cervélo team folded, he joined Garmin for two years. He told VeloNews last month, “I didn’t fit in. I needed a new team and I needed to do what I want to do.”

Stepping back to join the newly formed Swiss IAM Cycling team seemed to be ideal for Haussler.

“It’s just what I needed. It’s the same as Cervélo, a new team and a new motivation and they give me the freedom of what I want to do,” he continued in Wevelgem. “The whole time [with Garmin] I was saying I need to do my old school East German training: slow, long, and just taking it easy. I was allowed to do that [this year], the whole winter I was just cross-country skiing and I knew that if I did my own training that I could get to that level again.”

Haussler frustrated, but confident for Flanders

Haussler initiated the escape 60km from the finish on Sunday. The group thinned to 11 men and included eventual winner Peter Sagan (Cannondale). Haussler kicked a couple of times to rid the group of ticketless passengers.

He withstood the late attack by Stijn Vandenbergh (Omega Pharma-Quick Step), but had little answer for Sagan’s move 3.5km out. Haussler, instead, launched his bid for second at 500 meters, but faded to fourth.

“I’m frustrated because half the guys were just sitting on saying, ‘Oh, we’ve got a guy in the back,'” he said. “The only guys that were really pulling were me and the [Cannondale] dudes, and a couple of others.”

Haussler, however, was able to take a good feeling out of Wevelgem on Sunday. He fought through the first hours, re-joined the front group after being left behind, and then shaped the race with an attack. As he said, it was a good sign that he is back after two years in an ill-fitting team and that he is ready for Sunday’s Ronde van Vlaanderen and then Paris-Roubaix.