Heinrich Haussler (IAM Cycling) has won the elite men’s road race at the 2015 Australian National Road Championships, sprinting to victory ahead of Caleb Ewan (Orica-GreenEdge) and Neil van der Ploeg (Avanti) in a six-rider lead group.

Haussler was dropped from the lead group on the 3km-long Mount Buninyong climb on both of the last two laps, but fought his way back into contention on the top section of the course both times.

For Haussler, it was the perfect start to 2015 after several seasons of variable form.

“Since 2009 I’ve had ups and downs, ups and downs, coming back, getting down, getting up, getting down”, Haussler said. “This year during the winter I really built up, came out in December to Australia to get ready for Nationals and Down Under and things just have fallen into place.

“Seriously — it’s the best day of my life. I don’t know what to say. ”

The race-winning break was established on lap 14 of 18 when a flurry of attacks splintered the peloton on the step-like Mount Buninyong climb. A group of 16 riders emerged from the climb together, including Haussler, while Will Clarke (Drapac) and Pat Lane (African Wildlife Safaris) were together at the head of the race, roughly 40 seconds ahead.

Pat Lane attacked solo the following time up Mount Buninyong, leaving Will Clarke to drift back to the chase group. The next time up the climb, on lap 16 of 18, Lane was caught, creating a group of 17 riders at the head of affairs.

Over the following two laps the lead group would be whittled away while back in the peloton pre-race favourites like Cadel Evans (BMC) and Richie Porte (Sky) were seeing the race slip away from them.

Michael Hepburn (Orica-GreenEdge) attacked from the lead group of 17 on the penultimate time up Mount Buninyong, thinning the lead group down to just seven riders: Angus Morton (Jelly Belly), Hepburn, Caleb Ewan, Jack Bobridge (Budget Forklifts), Campbell Flakemore (BMC), Neil van der Ploeg (Avanti) and Sam Spokes (Drapac). Heinrich Haussler was dropped but managed to regain contact over the top, along with the winner of this race in 2007, Darren Lapthorne (Drapac), and his teammate Robbie Hucker.

The final time up Mount Buninyong it was Darren Lapthorne that played the aggressor. He attacked no fewer than three times but despite getting a good gap the first time, he was unable to make his moves count. Campbell Flakemore attacked as the top of the climb approached but he was marked by Caleb Ewan who then, in a move that surprised many onlookers, put in a big attack of his own.

The 20-year-old speedster got a sizeable gap as he began the flatter top section of the course with roughly 6km to go. Jack Bobridge was the first to bridge across to Ewan and the pair was joined a short time later by Flakemore, van der Ploeg, Morton and Spokes.

Haussler had again been distanced on the climb, but he soon made contact on the Fisken Road descent with a little more than 3km to race.

“I knew I had to pace myself on the climb”, Haussler said. “If I went over the limit I’d blow completely.”

In the closing kilometres Spokes, Flakemore, Morton and van der Ploeg all tried their hand at getting clear solo but nothing stuck, thanks largely to the efforts of Caleb Ewan. As the finish approached, the winner was certain to come from the lead group of six.

Ewan launched his sprint from the middle of the group with Haussler on his wheel. But it was Haussler, 10 years Ewan’s senior, that won the dash to the line, despite his chain coming off just as he crossed the line.

Haussler likened the sprint to that in the nail-biting finish to the Milan-San Remo in 2009 when he finished second behind Mark Cavendish.

“It was a really tough sprint and the lactic acid was just coming out my ears, just like back in San Remo”, Haussler said after the race. “[I was] pretty much just trying to get every little bit of energy into my legs that I had.

“Thank God the line came and I got there first. I couldn’t believe it.”

Neil van der Ploeg rolled in for third place, ahead of Flakemore, Spokes and then Bobridge, while Angus Morton was nine seconds behind in seventh. The peloton crossed the line 52 seconds later, led through by Adam Hansen (Lotto Soudal). Cadel Evans, in his last national championships, finished 11th.

Orica-GreenEdge sports director Matt White told CyclingTips that the race didn’t pan out as he thought it would, saying “it was quite a negative race”. He praised Caleb Ewan’s tenacity in attacking on the final climb but said the 20-year-old was outsmarted in the sprint.

“Caleb obviously felt really good and he was probably the strongest guy of the group”, White said. “[He started his sprint] a little early and Heinrich lined him up there. You make one little mistake at the end of a five hour race, and you pay for it.”

For Heinrich Haussler the 2015 race season continues next weekend with the Santos Tour Down Under before the Cadel Evans Great Ocean Road Race, the Tour of Qatar and then the European season.

“I want to go to Down Under now and win a stage there”, Haussler said. “Obviously that’s going to be hard but that’s a goal.

“Basically I just want to build ahead of the Classics. It may be one of the last years that San Remo is going to be a sprint before they put the bigger climbs into it, so definitely San Remo is the thing that’s been in the back of my mind.”

Haussler, a stage winner at the Tour de France, told CyclingTips earlier this week that he wouldn’t ride the French Grand Tour this year, saying “it’s just too much stress”.

Mens Elite Road Race, National Championship

The early action

A four-rider group came together in the early stages with Pat Shaw (Avanti), Cameron Peterson (Drapac), Rhys Gillett (ProTDU) and Paul van der Ploeg (CharterMason Giant) building a lead of 50 seconds by the end of the third lap. But it wasn’t until the fifth time up Mount Buninyong that the first substantial breakaway group came together.

Under the impetus of an aggressive Orica-GreenEdge, 11 riders got clear of the peloton on the climb before making their way across to join the four leaders on the road. The 15-rider group was well stocked with Drapac and Orica-GreenEdge riders and contained some big-name riders, including 2013 national road race and time trial champion Luke Durbridge (Orica-GreenEdge), Campbell Flakemore, 2011 winner of this race Jack Bobridge, eventual winner Heinrich Haussler, Bernie Sulzberger (Drapac), Will Clarke (Drapac), Pat Shaw, Lachlan Norris (Drapac) and Nathan Earle (Sky).

For the next six laps the 15-rider group built a lead that grew to as much as two minutes. Damian Howson attacked solo from the lead group on lap 10 and spent a lap out front on his own before being caught. The next to try his hand was Will Clarke, who got clear of the lead group on lap 11. On the following lap, the chase group appeared to sit up and were caught by the main field, leaving just Will Clarke ahead of the peloton.

Clarke forged on alone at the front of the race for a few laps, his lead reaching a maximum of just under two minutes. Pat Lane started making his way across to Clarke on lap 13 and made contact with the Drapac rider at the top of the Mount Buninyong KOM on lap 14.

As previously described, the race-winning move was coming a little further down the slopes of Mount Buninyong as a chase group formed behind Will Clarke.

Race results:

National Championships Australia - Road Race

: Buninyong > Buninyong

Sunday 11th January (2015)

Classification: NC

Category: Int. Men

Distance: 183.6km

1. au
HAUSSLER Heinrich
IAM Cycling
04:47:24
2. au
EWAN Caleb
Orica GreenEDGE
-
3. au
VAN DER PLOEG Neil
Avanti Racing Team
-
4. au
FLAKEMORE Campbell
BMC Racing Team
-
5. au
SPOKES Samuel
Drapac Professional Cycling
-
6. au
BOBRIDGE Jack
Team Budget Forklifts
-
7. au
MORTON Angus
Jelly Belly p/b Maxxis
0:09
8. au
HANSEN Adam
Lotto Soudal
0:48
9. au
VON HOFF Steele
NFTO
0:52
10. au
CLARKE Simon
Orica GreenEDGE
-
11. au
EVANS Cadel
BMC Racing Team
-
12. au
MEYER Travis
Drapac Professional Cycling
-
13. au
ANDERSON Jack
Team Budget Forklifts
-
14. au
BAYLY Cameron
Health.com.au-search2retain Cycling Team
-
15. au
DURBRIDGE Luke
Orica GreenEDGE
-
16. au
NORRIS Lachlan
Drapac Professional Cycling
-
17. au
KENT-SPARK Oliver
Health.com.au-search2retain Cycling Team
-
18. au
EARLE Nathan
Team Sky
-
19. au
CRAWFORD Jai
Kinan Cycling Team
-
20. au
DEMPSTER Zakkari
Bora-Argon 18
-
21. au
PHELAN Adam
Drapac Professional Cycling
-
22. au
PORTE Richie
Team Sky
-
23. au
TANNER David
IAM Cycling
-
24. au
CROSBIE Michael
African Wildlife Safaris Cycling Team
-
25. au
O\' BRIEN Mark
Avanti Racing Team
-
26. au
MC CONNELL Daniel
Trek Factory Racing
-
27. au
ROE Thimothy
Drapac Professional Cycling
-
28. au
MILOSTIC Peter
-
29. au
MEYER Cameron
Orica GreenEDGE
5:20
30. au
GILLETT Rhys
-
31. au
HEPBURN Michael
Orica GreenEDGE
-
32. au
DYBALL Benjamin
Avanti Racing Team
-
33. au
LANE Patrick
African Wildlife Safaris Cycling Team
-
34. au
LAPTHORNE Darren
Drapac Professional Cycling
-
35. au
MORTON Lachlan
Jelly Belly p/b Maxxis
-
36. au
LEWIS Joe
Hincapie Racing Team
1:09
37. au
HAYMAN Mathew
Orica GreenEDGE
-
38. au
GRIMSEY Stuart
-
39. au
ELLIOTT Nathan
H
2:38
40. dk
JUEL Kristian
Team Budget Forklifts
-
41. au
COPP Jayden
Charter Mason Giant Racing Team
4:21
42. au
WINN Chris
5:19
43. au
HUCKER Robbie
Drapac Professional Cycling
-
44. au
ROGERS Michael
Tinkoff - Saxo
-
45. au
DOCKER Mitchell
Orica GreenEDGE
-
46. au
JOHNSTON Brendan
6:36
47. au
LOVELOCK-FAY Mitchell
Avanti Racing Team
-
48. au
PETERSON Cameron
Drapac Professional Cycling
-
49. au
WURF Cameron
-
50. au
CANTY Brendan
Team Budget Forklifts
6:43
51. au
CALABRIA Fabio
Champion System - Stan\'s No Tubes
9:13
52. au
BROWN Graeme
Drapac Professional Cycling
-
53. au
CLARKE William
Drapac Professional Cycling
-
54. au
KERBY Jordan
Drapac Professional Cycling
-
55. au
SULZBERGER Bernard
Drapac Professional Cycling
-
56. au
ENGLAND Michael
-
57. au
ROBINSON Thomas
-
DNF. au
FOOT Ali
-
DNF. au
FREY Dane
-
DNF. au
FETCH Luke
-
DNF. au
MELVILLE David
Data#3 Symantec team
-
DNF. au
FRASER Cameron
-
DNF. au
DOUGLAS Callan
-
DNF. au
EVANS David
-
DNF. au
DAVISON Luke
Team Budget Forklifts
-
DNF. au
DEVER Rowan
-
DNF. au
DAVIES Jordan
-
DNF. au
TAYLOR Joshua
Charter Mason Giant Racing Team
-
DNF. au
BENSLEY Nick
-
DNF. au
WHITE Edward
-
DNF. au
WILLIAMS Marc
Data#3 Symantec team
-
DNF. au
WATTS Aaron
-
DNF. au
SPURRELL Tyler
Data#3 Symantec team
-
DNF. au
WALKER Kane
Navitas Satalyst Racing team
-
DNF. au
WALSH Joel
-
DNF. au
TUPALSKI Mark
-
DNF. au
VERSTEEGE Adam
-
DNF. au
TOBIN Angus
Health.com.au-search2retain Cycling Team
-
DNF. au
BALLHAUSE Kenneth
-
DNF. au
CRIDLAND Luke
-
DNF. au
CUNNINGHAM Steve
-
DNF. au
PRETE Joshua
Jelly Belly p/b Maxxis
-
DNF. au
RISCHMUELLER Thomas
-
DNF. au
RIZZUTO Matthew
-
DNF. au
RUGENDYKE David
-
DNF. au
SATCHELL Allan
-
DNF. au
SMITH Stuart
Health.com.au-search2retain Cycling Team
-
DNF. au
SMYTH Alexander
African Wildlife Safaris Cycling Team
-
DNF. au
GREGORY Declan
-
DNF. au
GATLAND Nick
-
DNF. au
HUMBERT Dylan Pierre
-
DNF. au
PICKERING Andrew
-
DNF. au
PARKER David
-
DNF. au
CASEY Peter
-
DNF. au
COTTRELL Ryan
-
DNF. au
BUTLER James
-
DNF. au
BOYS Matt
-
DNF. au
JOHNSON Shannon
Charter Mason Giant Racing Team
-
DNF. au
IACUONE Alan
-
DNF. au
GIACOPPO Anthony
Avanti Racing Team
-
DNF. au
NANKERVIS Tommy
Team Budget Forklifts
-
DNF. au
PAPASTAVROS Christopher
-
DNF. au
BRIDGWOOD Kyle
Data#3 Symantec team
-
DNF. au
FAGG Mark
-
DNF. au
DENNIS Rohan
BMC Racing Team
-
DNF. au
FULLER Christopher
-
DNF. au
HOWSON Damien
Orica GreenEDGE
-
DNF. au
JONES Brenton
Drapac Professional Cycling
-
DNF. au
LAKE Sean
African Wildlife Safaris Cycling Team
-
DNF. au
RUDOLPH Malcolm
Drapac Professional Cycling
-
DNF. au
MACANALLY Ryan
Charter Mason Giant Racing Team
-
DNF. au
SHAW Stuart
Health.com.au-search2retain Cycling Team
-
DNF. au
SHAW Patrick
Avanti Racing Team
-
DNF. au
DONNELLY Aaron
-
DNF. au
VAN DER PLOEG Paul
-
DNF. au
BONAIL Frederick
-
DNF. au
EVERS Craig
Data#3 Symantec team
-
DNF. au
MULHERN Mitchell
Team Budget Forklifts
-
DNF. au
SQUILLARI Nicholas Francesco
-
DNF. au
JACOBS Julian
-
DNF. au
ALLEN Adam
Data#3 Symantec team
-
DNF. au
TALBOT Brodie
Team Budget Forklifts
-
DNF. au
BERRY Josh
Team Budget Forklifts
-
DNF. au
BOLTON Jonathan
Navitas Satalyst Racing team
-
DNF. au
BLAIR Andrew
-
DNF. au
SUNDERLAND Scott
Team Budget Forklifts
-
DNF. au
STRACHAN Joel
Navitas Satalyst Racing team
-
DNF. au
MAGEE Jake
Charter Mason Giant Racing Team
-
DNF. au
MCCARTHY Liam
-
DNF. au
MCDONALD Cameron
-
DNF. au
MCLEAN David
-
DNF. au
GUY Timothy
Health.com.au-search2retain Cycling Team
-
DNF. au
STACK Chris
-
DNF. au
STEWART Lachlan
-
DNF. au
O\' SULLIVAN Callum
Data#3 Symantec team
-
DNF. au
O\' SHEA Glenn
Team Budget Forklifts
-
DNF. au
WITMITZ Sam
Team Budget Forklifts
-
DNF. au
LEWIS Shaun
-
DNF. au
LEONARD Matthew
Navitas Satalyst Racing team
-
DNF. au
MUNRO David
-
DNF. au
HAMBLETT Brad
-
DNF. au
HAWKER Ashley
-
DNF. au
HILL Benjamin
Charter Mason Giant Racing Team
-
DNF. au
HUTTON Craig
-
DNF. au
IRVINE Saxon
-
DNF. au
IVORY Cameron
-
DNF. au
JONES Luke
-
DNF. au
KEENE Lucien
-
DNF. au
KIERNAN Matthias
-
DNS. au
BRYANT Andrew
-
DNS. au
CUPITT Michael
Data#3 Symantec team
-
DNS. au
SULZBERGER Wesley
Navitas Satalyst Racing team
-
DNS. au
CHAMBERS Tyson
African Wildlife Safaris Cycling Team
-
DNS. au
MOWATT James
Data#3 Symantec team
-
DNS. au
LEE Christopher
-
DNS. au
OCKERBY Luke
Health.com.au-search2retain Cycling Team
-