Adam Hansen is one of Lotto-Belisol's trusted riders for André Greipel’s winning sprint train. The only Australian in the Belgian team loves the European way of living. “Out of all the Australian pro cyclists, I am probably the least Australian. I love living in Europe and love the multicultural nature of our team.”
Hansen followed a remarkable career path. While his Lotto-Belisol teammates mostly followed the standard road through the junior and U23 ranks, Hansen, 32, didn’t start riding his bike seriously until his early twenties. “I have teammates who are younger than me and have been racing for sixteen years now. I am doing this eleven years now.”
“It makes me more fresh, I think,” he told Cyclingnews at the team presentation in Ghent. “I have at least ten more years in me. Starting later means that you can go on for longer. And the gap between the worst and the best in the peloton has gotten smaller over the years, too,” the Australian explained on why cycling careers tend to be longer now.
“Moreover, older athletes also have more endurance. If you look at the competitors in triathlons, they are well over thirty in most cases.”
Hansen himself started doing triathlons in his late teens but wanted to do few years of bike racing to improve his cycling skills because it was Hansen’s worst part of triathlon. Winning the Crocodile Trophy mountain bike race two years straight got him noticed and landed him a job with a cycling team in Austria.
“I love Europe. You can drive 300 kilometres and be in a completely different culture. Some of my best mates are European. Lotto-Belisol has that multicultural feel to it with Germans, a Dane, and Belgians from the Flemish and Walloon side of the country.”
Hansen lives in the Czech Republic, dividing time between bike racing, computer programming and his various companies including his own shoe and clothing brand. “Programming computers was my dream as a kid. It’s like a complicated puzzle. Cycling on the other hand is relaxation. Taking a plane to a race is a relief. I sleep only a few hours a night and my mind goes bananas if I don’t race. Racing keeps me sane.”
Hansen was born on the Gold Coast, and turned pro with T-Mobile in 2007 and stayed with the team under the HTC banner until it folded and he signed with Lotto-Belisol in 2011. Hansen just signed a new contract for 2014 and 2015 with the Belgian team.
“I am very happy to stay with the team. Working for André [Greipel] is no bother. He has been so loyal and so nice to me. We all want André to win, we are a unit [as a sprint train] and if we don’t succeed we feel sorry for André. If we lose, we take it personally.”
Hansen is a popular rider with the fans, not in the least because of his Lotto-Belisol training camp photos in 2012 and 2013 on Twitter. “That started as a joke but the team liked it so we continued. I know the fans did, too, because I check all the mentions on Twitter and see who starts following me. I sometimes feel sorry that I can’t reply to questions but if I would, things would quickly get out of control. I'd feel I'd have to answer everyone, and not just some. “
Hansen is the only rider who finished three Grand Tours in 2012 and 2013. He aims to finish his tenth Grand Tour in a row in next year’s Vuelta, the place where he started this series in 2011.
“Riding Grand Tours relaxes the brain. You don’t have to think about where you are, what time the start is. And with the in-ear communication, the sports director tells me what to do in the race. In the sprint train Siebie [Marcel Sieberg] tells us what to do because he is so tall, he sees everything. I am the one who pilots the train to the front. For me riding is very relaxing. “
This year Hansen took his first victory since 2010 by winning the seventh stage in the Giro d’Italia after a long solo breakaway. His programme for 2014 will be the same as 2013 with the Australian nationals and Tour Down Under as starting point and the three Grand Tours as building blocks around which the other races are planned.
“Working is brain time and riding is body time. They do complement each other very well. Of course I am happy to be riding my bike with a professional team when so many can't because of this crisis in cycling, but if it would have ended, I wouldn’t be too bothered. Cycling is my hobby, in the first place.”