Since moving from rural Australia to Germany alone as a 14-year-old in pursuit of a dream that at first felt like a tear-inducing nightmare, Heinrich Haussler has only known cycling.
For more than 20 years his life revolved around two wheels – from regimented training in the depths of winter at a foreign sports school, to winning a stage of the Tour de France, being crowned Australian road champion, and assisting teammates to career-defining success.
It wasn’t a job for Haussler, it was a lifestyle and an insulated and selfish one at that, from which nearly all his adult relationships have stemmed.
“You live in a bubble where you’re the number one person,” Haussler tells Rouleur.
“Everyone does everything just for you, even if you’re the worker, how you say it, a domestique, everyone, especially if you’re Belgian where cycling is massive, you’re the king, you’re the absolute king.
“And one day to the next that stops, and then you’re pretty much a nobody.”
At 39, Haussler knew his days competing in the WorldTour were limited. He saw it in his training numbers. His contracts at Bahrain Victorious were limited to one-year deals. And his influence at the squad he first joined in 2017 had become less about physical contribution at a race and more to do with his priceless experience.
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But he didn’t anticipate at the end of last season, when he recovered from another case of COVID-19 to compete at the 2022 UCI Road World Championships that Wollongong would be the last race of his decorated career in which he represented Germany and Australia.
A few months later at a December training camp a set of routine heart tests detected an arrhythmia irregularity, which his team acted on immediately.
Haussler’s career came to an abrupt end after training camp tests (Getty Images)
“They picked up a small change in the stress ECG and the resting ECG and from then onwards, directly next day, they were like, ‘Heino, no, you’re not riding anymore, we’re going to send you home, you need to go back to Freiburg, get in touch with the clinic, and you need to do a proper MRI, everything again’,” Haussler recalls.
Haussler returned to his home in Germany and instead of readying for a winter of cyclo-cross, which he took on with genuine enthusiasm in recent years, and the 2023 road season, the Classics specialist did something totally unfamiliar. He put the bike aside and…
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