You can forgive the cycling news media for giving Heinrich Haussler the dubious honor of having what’s probably the highest ratio of headlines to race results this year. For Haussler, 2009 was a break-out year: stage wins at Volta ao Algarve and Paris-Nice set the stage for a strong spring. Second place finishes at Milan-San Remo and the Ronde, top-10’s in Paris-Roubaix and Het “Volk Is Easier To Pronounce” Nieuwsblad made it obvious that he’ll be a classics contender in years to come. He iced the cake by soloing for 50k from a break to an impressive win in the Tour de France’s 13th stage. He crossed the line in tears, burying his face in his hands.
Unfortunately, 2010 has proven to be a bust for Haussler. He rode an injured knee to 2nd at Het Nieuwsblad, but had to step back from racing in order to let his injury heal. Unfortunately, when he returned to racing at the Tour de Suisse in June, a crash with an erratically sprinting Mark Cavendish reactivated his injury. It’s no surprise, then, that at September’s Tour of Britain – Haussler’s first race since his knee surgery this summer – he dropped out with fatigue after (perhaps ill-advisedly) being in a break for 100k of Stage 5. Acquiring racing form takes a few months of preparation and a few more months of hard racing to sharpen a rider’s edge.
What is surprising is the clicking of tongues by some in the cycling news media. “This will certainly lose him a few extra percents of motivation when fatigue sets in a race like the Tour of Britain,” reports VeloNation. Haussler is a professional, presumably familiar with the long process it takes to acquire race fitness. He ought not be discouraged.
Bradley Wiggins, on the other hand – another rider given star treatment in recent years – has reason to be disappointed with his season as well. After an impressive 2009 Tour de France season, he signed with Sky Professional Cycling in a widely publicized move from Garmin-Slipstream. Sky had reason to be confident in their investment – in 2009, Wiggins reportedly lost 6kg (almost 14lbs) shortly before the Tour de France. A strong time trialist (evidenced by a growing collection of Olympic medals), the lost weight helped him gamely cling near the front of the pack in the mountains, and he eked out a scrappy fourth place. For Wiggins, though, 2010 saw his GC aspirations implode at both the Giro and the Tour. Considering the price tag attached to him when Sky poached Wiggins from Garmin, it may be safe to call his season a wash.
Haussler’s poor performance should be expected considering his injuries and his extremely limited time on the bike this racing calendar. Wiggins’ poor performance, on the other hand, should be cause for concern for Sky’s ambitions to create the first British winner of the Tour de France within five years. They may be trying to cram a square peg into a round hole.