IAM Cycling's Heinrich Haussler will stay in Europe this winter to train for the Classics rather than defend his national title in Australia

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Australia will have a new national champion in 2016 after Heinrich Haussler announced he would skip the January 11 race in order to focus on the European spring Classics.

Haussler, 31, beat young Orica-GreenEdge sprinter Caleb Ewan to the line in Buninyong before claiming three top-10s in the Tour Down Under and 10th place in the Cadel Evans Road Race.

But this winter the IAM Cycling rider will remain in Europe in order to prepare for the Classics, with his best finish in 2015 coming at the Tour of Flanders, where he crossed the line 26th.

“I love this [national champion’s] jersey but for 2016 I just can’t fit defending my title into my program because I really want to concentrate on the Classics, but I will be back in 2017,” said Haussler in a statement from Cycling Australia.

Adding: “I’ll never forget that day and riding in the Aussie colours in 2015 is also something I’ll never forget. Every training ride I did this year, when I went to put on the Aussie champion kit, it was really a special feeling.”

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Haussler’s nationals win proved to be his only victory in 2015, notching up another 12 top-10 finishes in 71 racing days for IAM. He will return to Milan-San Remo in March, looking to match or better his second-place finish of 2009 – the year he also finished second in Flanders and sixth at Paris-Roubaix.