Heino in Bergen
Culture, locker room energy and motivation is something that can’t be measured on the stats sheet. There was plenty of talk about Heinrich Haussler's selection for the men’s road race at the UCI road World Championships that takes place today in Bergen, Norway. The man from Inverell who has only 10 race days under his belt was the surprise selection in the nine-man Australian squad for the 267.5km test around the arctic roads. It has been an injury plagued season for “Heino” who pinned a number on for the first time in June 2017 and then raced four one day races in August and September with his best result coming at Cyclassics Hamburg where the 33 year old veteran finished in 15th place. This result perhaps giving selectors confidence that he was in good enough shape to be selected for a senior World Championships. From a form point of view, there would be a dozen Australian cyclists that would get the nod over Heino, but there is more to it than just being in good physical shape.
It was a few days before Milan- San Remo (MSR) in 2015 (the year Heino was the Australian champion) Heino and myself were having lunch with a few other riders. He had just done a "reccy" of the finale of MSR and it was no doubt a big target for his season. I remember how he was so relaxed, jovial and how easy he was to talk to and it was only days before one of the biggest races of the year - this personality is invaluable to a team environment. Sitting at the Under 23 table in Ponferrada at the 2014 World Championships, six budding professionals looked over to the elite men’s table to see Heino continuously "running the show". His energy filled the room and the elite men that were lining up the next day displayed a fruitful show of energy. This sort of attitude and mentality is something that can’t be underestimated when putting a team together for any sport. A team of all leaders or all youth or all talent or all experience is unlikely to yield results, yet a balance of all these is the key to success.
What Heino brings to the team is a wealth of experience in big races and an attitude and vibe which creates good energy in the camp for others to feed off. If Heino gets dropped with 100km to go, for mine his selection is still justified. The days leading up to a big race go as slow as a wet week, creating ample time to overthink things. But with a guy like Heino in the camp, it takes the tenseness out of the dinner table and the time on the team bus and reminds the other riders in the squad that it is ok to unplug from of the cycling bubble so close to a big race. In my experience in cycling at a high level, the times when I was going best was when I was in a good mental state with good team mates and everyone feeding off each other and just enjoying what we were doing even when the chips were down - a good mental state is just as important as being in good physical condition.
I’m not sure how much input the leader of the Australian team Michael Matthews had to do with this selection but I’m sure he would have been advocating for Heino’s inclusion for the experience he brings to the team on race day, and the locker room energy and vibe he brings to the camp. With all things going well for the Aussies tonight, Matthews is a big chance for a rainbow jersey and whether Heino plays a part on race day or not, his selection will be justified from those within the Australian camp in Bergen.
Good luck today boys and I'll see you back at the social club!