The absence of German sprinter and leader Andre Greipel at this year’s Tour Down Under has increased the pressure on the Lotto-Soudal riders in the six stage event, rather than taken it off them, according to his Australian teammate Adam Hansen.
Hansen, 33, said were Greipel in this year’s race, the Belgian team would still have been called upon to work hard in chasing breaks and leading him in the bunch sprints. Yet as history shows, they knew Greipel would usually come up trumps with a win. However, without him in the Tour Down Under, Hansen says the pressure is now on him and his teammates to produce a result in the first World Tour event of the year.
“It is different because normally we pull every day. We don’t have to do that now,” Hansen told Cyclingnews before the second stage from Unley to Stirling. “But I wouldn’t say we have less pressure. Because Andre is not here, we have more pressure on us. When Andre was here he just won and we didn’t have to do anything.
“It’s [now] a bit more stressful for us even though the sports director doesn’t say so. We have spent a lot of time with our sports directors and we know how they feel. They are a bit stressed. So it is a bit harder now.”
Hansen once again has his eyes on competing in the Giro d’Italia, Tour de France and Vuelta a España this year to extend his run of consecutive Grand Tour finishes beyond 10 – currently an equal best number with former Spanish star Marino Lejarreta.
Asked if when planning his season, he usually just lists the three Grand Tours and bases the rest of his program around them, Hansen said: “Pretty much. I only do nine races a year. It’s all the same, has been for the last three years and will be this year.”
The next generation
Like many, Hansen has noticed and been excited by the emergence of a number of young Australian riders with immense potential arrive the international circuit. They include Campbell Flakemore (BMC), Caleb Ewan (Orica-GreenEDGE), then Jack Haig, Rob Power and Alex Edmondson who will all join Orica-GreenEDGE from 2016.
“They are all very good, very promising,” Hansen said, but then offering a cautious warning that potential alone does not guarantee a rider’s long term future. “You do see a lot of young riders come through and then die off.”
“That’s said. I think a lot of them get distracted and side-tracked. I just hope these young guys can keep improving all the way through. It’s the next generation of Australian cycling. We all wish the best for them and hope they stay on track.”
Asked why some riders are lost early, Hansen said: “I think it was too easy for them at the start. They get treated a bit like kings. [But] I have noticed quite a few young guys … they are sort of very promising at a young age. They step into the big league, sign a big contract and never hear from them again. I don’t want to give examples, but it’s sad to see. Greg [Henderson] and I always talk about it. We say, ‘It’s always the talent, imagine if we had their talent. We would be a different rider.’”
So what advice would Hansen offer a rookie professional if asked? “Just [work for] consistency, always stay consistent,” Hansen said. “If you stay consistent you will go far. If you have up and down years, the problem is that you might get side-lined.
“That could be the end of your career very quickly. But consistent and always keep trying to move forwards and don’t put your feet up when you sign a good contract.”
Having followed his own advice throughout his career, one could say that it works. “I don’t know if it is the way that I have been brought up,” Hansen said. “I’ve always tried to keep moving forward and try and be as consistent as possible.”
Although, he concedes that even with consistency, the sport doesn’t get any easier. “For sure, not. We have these young guys at our toes,” Hansen says with a laugh.
Rupert Guinness is a sports writer for The Sydney Morning Herald (Fairfax Media)