Heinrich Haussler's huge grin as he powered across the finish line of stage two of the Tour de Suisse said it all. After a rough spell in the Classics and the Tour of California when he was sidelined by a knee injury, not to mention a drink-driving incident this summer, a victory for his Cervélo squad in the team's biggest home race was just of result the 26-year-old needed prior to the Tour de France.
Just like his Tour de France win in the Vosges last year, Haussler's victory came after a very tough opening road stage and in poor weather. This time round, the biggest challenge was the 20 kilometre Simplon pass, tackled in dense fog, torrential rain and temperatures dropping to just four degrees at the summit.
The Simplon was preceded by a 16 kilometre unclassified ascent on spectacularly narrow, twisting roads out of the start at Ascona. As if that were not enough, with less than 20 kilometres to go the organisers had included a short but steep climb across vineyards before plunging back down to the finish at Sierre.
The lungbursting changes of gradient of the last third category climb effectively spelled curtains for a five-man break of the day, although Pavel Brutt (Katusha) did manage to hold on until two kilometres to go despite nearly coming a cropper on the descent.
Haussler has always been in his element in chaotic bunch sprints like the one that followed and with a trademark late, punchy, acceleration, he powered across the line for his first win since a stage in Poitou-Charantes last summer.
"It's a real liberation," Haussler said afterwards, "My early season was wrecked this year because of the knee injury and this has finally set things straight again."
Despite not being a natural climber, Fabian Cancellara (Saxo Bank) battled his way successfully over the Simplon and then upped the pace in person after the third category climb to remain in the lead for a second day.
"First I wanted to win the prologue, but my second big objective of the race was to remain in yellow until the race reached Schwarzenburg in my home region on stage three," Cancellara said afterwards, "and that's what I've managed to do."
British sprinter Mark Cavendish (HTC-Columbia) lost touch with the front group on the final tough third-category climb just 15 kilometres from the line in Sierre. He was not alone, Tom Boonen (Quick Step), Robbie McEwen (Katusha) and Alessandro Petacchi (Lampre) were also left playing catch-up.
Lance Armstrong (RadioShack) finished mid-pack in the front group, along with Frank and Andy Schleck (Saxo Bank).
Tour de Suisse 2010, stage two: Ascona - Sierre, 167.5km
1. Heinrich Haussler (Ger) Cervelo in 4-25-16
2. Pablo Urtasun (Spa) Euskaltel-Euskadi
3. Marco Marcato (Ita) Vacansoleil
4. Oscar Freire (Spa) Rabobank
5. Gerald Ciolek (Ger) Milram all same time
Overall classification after stage two
1. Fabian Cancellara (Swi) Saxo Bank in 4-35-37
2. Roman Kreuziger (Cze) Liquigas-Doimo at 1sec
3. Tony Martin (Ger) HTC-Columbia at 3sec
4. Dries Devenyns (Bel) Quick Step at 10sec
5. Gustav Erik Larsson (Swe) Saxo Bank at 11sec
Heinrich Haussler (l) takes the stage win
All smiles from stage winner Haussler
Overall leader Fabian Cancellara
Tour de Suisse 2010, stage one: Cancellara blasts to TT victory
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