Heinrich Haussler led Garmin-Cervélo with 18th in Saturday’s gripping Milan-San Remo that saw an unlucky crash derail the chances for reigning world champion Thor Hushovd in the first spring classic of the 2011 season.
Garmin-Cervélo lined up with high hopes of winning the 102nd running of the season’s longest one-day Classic, but Hushovd was involved in a spill near the decisive La Manie climb with just under 100km to go.
The big Norwegian was not seriously injured, but he lost the wheel in an important part of the race just as the attacks and speed were ramping up for the final, critical moments of the Italian classic.
“Literally 200 meters before the start of the La Manie, Thor went down on a crash and that was it, that was his race,” said Garmin-Cervélo director Jonathan Vaughters. “He spent the entire climb trying to get back to the peloton. By that point, the peloton had split into two parts, so by the time he got back, the race was pretty much over for him.”
Not only was Hushovd held up in the crash, but American sprinter Tyler Farrar, hot off a stage victory at Tirreno-Adriatico, was unable to follow the front riders when the attacks went down in the closing 50km.
With two of the team’s top options out of the frame, the weight of the team’s expectations turned to Haussler, the scrappy Australian who was second to Mark Cavendish in the 2009 Milan-San Remo in a photo finish.
Garmin-Cervélo teammate Andreas Klier was right there to help over the decisive climbs at Cipressa and then the Poggio in the closing 30km and Haussler did well to stay at the nose of the action.
Haussler didn’t quite have the legs to follow a string of fierce attacks over the short but steep Poggio climb in the final 10km, and worked with a group of lead sprinters with the hope that it would come back together for a bunch sprint down the Via Rom.
Instead, a lead group of eight stayed clear and Matt Goss took an exciting win to become the first Australian to win Milan-San Remo. Haussler crossed the line 18th in the first chase group at 27 seconds back.
“Andreas did a great job helping Heinrich, but with 300 meters to go over the top of the Poggio, Heinrich just didn’t have the legs to follow those attacks,” Vaughters continued.
“After aggressive racing like we saw today, I don’t know if everyone expected it to come back for a sprint. Heinrich wanted to go with those attacks, he just didn’t have the legs today. That’s even more true after 300km of racing.”
In upcoming racing action, Garmin-Cervélo lines up Monday for the week-long Volta a Catalunya with several options for stage wins while the classics unit turns its attention to the northern classics. Gent-Wevelgem is the next major stop, set for March 27 in Belgium.
“It was a little sub-par today, we have to admit, but there was no error on any part of the riders. We had some bad luck with the crash with Thor, but after 300km of racing, that’s how bike racing goes. The guys rode a good race, it just didn’t turn out for us today,” Vaughters concluded.
“Everyone is very motivated for the classics season. Now we’ve got to let the guys decompress. There was a lot of pressure today on the team, but this was the first time these guys raced together in a race this big. That’s fine, but this race will put us in a better place for the upcoming races in Belgium.”
More photos from Milan-Sanremo: