© Presse Sports
Far behind riders of the stature of Eddy Merckx, Bernard Hinault and Mark Cavendish, in the history of the Tour de France there have been almost three hundred men who only got a fleeting taste of glory. As the countdown to the start of the race on 7 July continues, letour.fr is retracing the steps of 10 champions who clinched a single stage win. In 2009, Heinrich Haussler, an Aussie riding under a German licence, delivered a performance for the ages in the Vosges to claim a solo win in Alsace.
He is good at almost everything… especially at covering up his tracks. Young Heinrich Haussler left his native Australia for Germany, the country of his father, to pursue his dream of becoming a pro cyclist. As hoped, he joined the elite peloton at a young age and soon stood out as a promising sprinter: not when he claimed the stage to Alcobendas of the 2005 Vuelta, rather when he finished third in the finale in Madrid, beaten only by Alessandro Petacchi and Erik Zabel. Four years later, Heinrich rocketed to a stage win in Paris–Nice, but the real show of strength came in Milan–San Remo, where Mark Cavendish pipped him on the line, and the Tour of Flanders, where he led the peloton home a minute behind winner Stijn Devolder. At the start of the 2009 Tour, it was clear that the German, now riding for Cervélo after launching his career with Gerolsteiner, was ready to go head-to-head with the fastest men in the world.
The state of grace
“Cav” held the advantage in the first few stages. Heinrich Haussler also had to work for team leader Thor Hushovd, helping him to claim the stage to Barcelona. However, management gave him the green light to attack, which he did in stage 13, a long, hard slog through the Vosges. Haussler joined Christophe Moreau after just three kilometres, with Rubén Pérez, Rigoberto Urán, Juanma Gárate, Jens Voigt and Sylvain Chavanel adding to the numbers another four kilometres down the road. As the peloton came within 45 seconds of the breakaway, he initiated a new selection at km 57. Only Pérez and Chavanel made the cut this time round, with the rest of the group falling back to the peloton. Haussler, still riding under a German licence one year before switching back to Australia, was untouchable on the climbs. The Euskaltel rider got dropped 5 km from the top of the Platzerwasel, 46.5 km before the line, with the Frenchman bonking and losing contact on the descent. Neither the incessant rain that pounded the peloton throughout the five-hour race nor the chill (9 °C on the Route des Crêtes) that put out the favourites’ fighting spirit blunted the edge Haussler. He was in the form of his life. Heinrich Haussler crossed the line in Colmar with a tearful celebration of what remains his sole stage win so far. The 34-year-old will be racing in the 2018 Tour de France as an all-terrain domestique for Vincenzo Nibali.