In 2019 cyclocross fans were surprised to see a rider from Bahrain-Merida participating in races. It tuned out to be Heinrich Haussler, who had fallen in love with the sport. In an interview with Cyclocross Social, he talks about why he started doing cyclocross, and how it has improved his road performances. The full interview is available as podcast on all audio platforms.
In 2019 Heinrich was participating in the Vuelta when he saw that Merida had launched a new cross bike. Considering the bad weather in German winters, he though having one of them would be useful to do some off-road training. So Heinrich got himself a cross bike, and started training on it. During one of those trainings, he got challenged by his good friend Sasha Weber to do a cyclocross race. At first Heinrich was a bit skeptical, he though he was too old to compete in a race, even though it was a low level one.
However, he was convinced to give it a try and lined up for his first ever race. The race was one of the hardest things he had ever done, but he was immediately hooked onto the sport. He loved going deep for a full hour with the snot coming out of his nose.
After that race he did a handful of other races for fun, because for Heinrich doing cyclocross was more fun than only doing endurance training. The race in Loenhout that season stood out for him. For him it felt like he was racing around a festival sight. Despite being minutes behind, people were still shouting his name everywhere. And when he crashed, and lost his SRM, the fan that found it made sure to return it to him!
But it wasn’t only about fun, because when the road season started Heinrich felt the improvements of doing cyclocross over the winter. It had regained some of his explosiveness that he had lost over the years, without losing endurance.
That is why he decided to do some more cyclocross races in the winter of 2020-21. Over the Christmas period he did a bunch of races in Belgium, including the world cups of Namur and Dendermonde. There were two things that he really struggled with.
The first one was, and still is, his technique. In terms of power he doesn’t lost that much time, but every corner he loses between 0.5 and 1 second. Despite making big improvements following dedicated training over the winter, he feels like the only way he can really improve his technical abilities is by getting the opportunity to train with some of the big guns.
The second issue he has was the lack of support. He went to most races by himself and had no support in the pits. This is because his team, Bahrain Victorious, allowed him to do cyclocross, as long as it wouldn’t hamper his road season. They wouldn’t actively support him in cyclocross. Heinrich feels like only part of the team understands his decision to do cyclocross. The trainers see the improvement it has on his road performance, but his teammates often think he is a bit crazy that he pushes himself so deep in cyclocross.
At the end of last cyclocross season Heinrich did the world championships, just to have done it once. After that he raced Tour de Provence on the road, before making a short return to cyclocross. The weekend before Omloop, he raced Sint Niklaas and Oostmalle as last preparation, and it worked perfectly. In Omloop he felt super strong and finished 4th despite working for Sonny Colbrelli.
But later that year, in Paris-Roubaix, he had the most benefits of doing cyclocross. On the wet cobble stones, he was more comfortable on the bike because he did cyclocross. He new how to corner, and he knew how to compensate for a back wheel that was slipping out. In the legendary wet edition he finished 10th despite being a domestique for Sonny Colbrelli who won the race.
These improvements he felt is also the reason he encourages as many riders as possible to do cyclocross. He thinks a training like a cyclocross race is something that can’t be simulated elsewhere, and improves your road qualities. That is also why he thinks it’s a shame that some teams don’t let their riders do cyclocross. Of he had his own team, he would have at least 5 riders doing cyclocross.
After the road season he took almost no rest as he wanted to do cyclocross again. This season he is supported by 2 mechanics from Merida in the world cups, but he still has to take care of things in smaller races himself. He feels like he has already been able to make significant improvements this winter in cyclocross. In the world cup of Tabor, he was able to finish the race on the same lap as the leaders, and in Munich he got his first UCI top 10.
For the rest of the season he hopes to get the absolute maximum out of his body, and become the best cyclocross rider he can. Over the Christmas period he plans on riding a bunch of races in Belgium again, but this year he wont ride the world championships as his road season starts just days later in the Saudi Tour.
You can listen to the full interview with Heinrich Haussler in episode 31 of the Cyclocross Social Podcast, it is available on all audio platforms.