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by Shane Stokes
April 28, 2015
He’s already completed a staggering run of ten straight Grand Tours, starting with the 2011 Vuelta a España and doing three a year since then.
Adam Hansen has committed to doing the same block of racing again this year and, all going well, by the end of September’s Vuelta the affable Australian will have set a major Grand Tour participation record.
The issue is a somewhat confusing one; as Hansen approached and then equalled the ten consecutive Grand Tours of the Spaniard Marino Lejarreta, that was widely reported as being the record.
However it has since emerged that another rider, Spain’s Bernardo Ruiz, had finished twelve straight three week races, starting with the 1954 Giro d’Italia and concluding with the 1958 Vuelta a España.
Hansen now has his eyes set on this total, and could surpass it by season’s end.
“[The record] is twelve,” Hansen told CyclingTips at the start of stage two of the Presidential Tour of Turkey in Analya. “The Giro will be my 11th so I have to finish the Tour.”
Asked if it was a goal for him, he confirmed that was the case. “This year it is,” he replied. “Before it wasn’t, it was more like I was doing it because I enjoy it. I never thought it was possible, mainly because of crashing and being sick.
“You have to be very lucky. But now it is reachable, so I think it would be nice to do it, nice to try.”
Hansen’s point is a very valid one. In addition to the huge physiological achievement of completing twelve three week races – in other words, over half a year’s total in all, there is also the element of staying safe. Ruiz, and Hansen if he equals him, will have had to dodge danger, circumvent catastrophe to get through each of those races.
This is an element of unpredictability that makes the feat all the more remarkable.
The Australian’s primary role is to ride for his Lotto Soudal team in those races, working hard to set up the sprinters and also to assist the general classification riders.
Doing that for even one Grand Tour takes plenty of strength; doing it three times a season, year in, year out, is something that many riders wouldn’t even attempt.
He’s not just a worker either; he also picked up a solo stage win in the 2013 Giro d’Italia and then notched up a second – with a particularly impressive attack in the finale – in last year’s Vuelta a España.
CyclingTips asked Hansen how he was able to handle such a volume.
“I have a lot of rest. I think I have a lot more rest than the other riders,” he answered.
“After a Grand Tour I will have at least a week with no training at all. A lot of riders always ride one or two hours the next day and build up from that. But I have a complete rest.
“I have a lot of block periods in the middle of the season. I have all of February off and then I have the month before here. Between Giro and the Tour I have a bit of training there also but after the Tour I have a very good [break]. I have four weeks off [racing]. I have a week off training, and then I slowly build up.
“So I do have a lot of rest periods.”
That structure is the reason why Hansen has been absent from the peloton of late. His season began with the Australian road race championships where he took eighth place. He then rode the Santos Tour Down Under, helping his Lotto Soudal team there and taking a solid 17th overall.
Paris-Nice followed after that. He did five stages there, then went on to compete in Milan-San Remo. After that he took time away from competition, the Australian heading back home to his northern hemisphere base of the Czech Republic.
“I do it every year,” he explained. “I have four weeks off before coming to Turkey,” he said. He then uses the 2.HC event to hone his form prior to the Giro d’Italia, where he will line out alongside riders such as Andre Greipel and try to help him and others take stages.
He’ll also hope to get his own chance, of course; he’s got two Grand Tour stage wins to his record and adding a third is another ambition.
Hansen is not one of the louder riders in the bunch; comparisons with Jens Voigt are perhaps relevant in terms of his penchant for attacking and his reputation for toughness, but he is less extroverted than the German. Quiet spoken at times, he is nevertheless one of the characters in the peloton.
The reason? His intellect and range of abilities. He’s a strong bike rider, of course, but away from the bike he has far more diverse interests than many professionals. He’s got several companies, sometimes working on matters relating to those in his hotel room in the evenings after Grand Tour stages.
While other riders are sitting with legs up or perhaps distracting themselves with playstation or movies, he’s channelling his energy in other ways.
He has explained this by saying that it keeps his mind occupied and enables him to switch off from cycling after the race.
Hansen also has his own clothing company and manufactures his own carbon fibre shoes. Last year he spoke about them in a video interview with CyclingTips’ David Everett, saying they were as light as 76 grams per shoe. He is continuing to refine them.
“Every year it is a bit different how I produce them and how light they are,” he said. “One day I think I would like to bring it into full production as it is something I really enjoy. I really enjoy working with composites. The whole idea for me is a challenge, it is like a problem solving.
“I like puzzles and things like this, the Rubik’s Cube and things like that.
“With the shoes for me, you have the tools in terms of the material and you have got to make the lightest and stiffest shoe from what you have. There are several different methods of how to produce them. It is more just trying to work out the best solution to bring the best shoe.”
Another area of strength is in computing: Hansen wrote the logistical software used by the Lotto Soudal team staff and riders, with this helping to make planning easier for all. He also wired up the team bus for wifi.
This range of aptitudes has led to the admiration of some of his team-mates. “I call him Adam Bond because he can do everything,” young Lotto Soudal rider Dennis Vanendert told CyclingTips in a recent video interview.
Unsurprisingly, Hansen said that these other interests occupy his time when he has those periods away from races.
“I have a lot of little projects at home,” he said with a laugh when asked how he spends those four week blocks. “I am a bit of a do it yourself man. I like doing my own things and that.
“I do a lot of property investments, that takes a lot of my time. And I have the clothing company also and my shoe project too. There is always something and I like to be busy.
“This is also why I like the [racing] programme I have because I do have big blocks at home where I can switch off from cycling and live a different life.”
He trains when he has to, of course, but being able to push the off button and focus on other interests is undoubtedly part of how he has been able to keep mentally fresh for cycling despite the huge amount of Grand Tour racing in recent years.
When he’s switched off, he’s off, but when he’s on he’s on.
“I really enjoy it,” he said, speaking about the Grand Tours. “I like doing it. I hope I can have more success this year also.
“I think I will continue to do it as long as I have a job.”
Given that Lotto Soudal has a rider who willingly rides for others in the three toughest races in cycling each year, it’s hard to imagine his period in the peloton ending anytime soon.