Adam Hansen has hit his stride in 2012, and on Saturday will line up at the Giro d'Italia for the fourth time in his career. The Grand Tour comes just as the Lotto Belisol Australian is enjoying strong form, most-recently evident at the Tour of Turkey which was cut short by a crash on stage 6.
Heading into the weekend, Hansen is supremely motivated. The Giro also marks one of the few events on the 30-year-old's calendar where he is not dedicated to the services of Andre Greipel, a role where he has had great success at both Lotto and with previous outfit Highroad. Hansen may have a different focus over the next three weeks but he makes it very clear that the Giro is a race he very much wanted to tackle.
"I like Grand Tours, all of them," he told Cyclingnews from Denmark. "[It] Opens a lot of chances for riders and I've focused my training and program towards the Giro. The idea was, start season early and then have a break and start at Tour of Turkey and then Giro. Try to make something here and then into Ster ZLM Toer then Tour de France."
Racing the Australian summer season in January, when the national titles are held, can create quite a challenge for the ever-growing contingent in the professional European peloton. To be good in January requires a solid preparation in the lead up while your usual competition is in the midst of the off-season. Depending on ambitions, it can result in chasing peaks in form up to four times during a season – something compatriot Matt Goss managed quite well in 2011. Current Australian Champion Simon Gerrans is now feeling the effects of his early-season tilt, having run out of steam at Liege-Bastonge-Liege following his sensational run of form which culminated in victory at Milan-San Remo.
Hansen finished fourth at the Australian road championships at Buninyong, arguably one of the toughest races in its history, before drilling it around Adelaide to launch Greipel to three stage wins at the Santos Tour Down Under. Hot form continued in Qatar and Oman before disaster struck at Paris-Nice where the Queenslander was forced out after three stages with a bronchial infection that then put an end to his hopes of riding Milan-San Remo. While it was disappointing to miss out on La Primavera, it was not a case of doom and gloom.
"Paris - Nice I was sick but I was due for a four-week break after that before Turkey," Hansen revealed. "So it did not change much of my program at all. Then I came back after a good break with Turkey, which I had really good form riding strongly until my crash. I only missed the two flat stages of Turkey. I'm at the Giro now and if I have the same form as in Turkey I would be happy and where I wanted to be."
Hansen's strength lies in his power output. At 186 centimetres tall and weighing in at 77 kilograms a good litmus test for his form came in Turkey where he was able to push himself on some of the lumpier days, doing "all the hard work" that he wanted to in order to see where he was at following his time off the bike. The signs were encouraging.
Breakaways become Hansen's goal for the three weeks ahead in terms of individual goals as part of the Lotto Belisol line-up which includes Lars Bak, Gaetan Bille, Bulgac Brian, Bart De Clercq, Francis De Greef, Olivier Kaisen, Gianni Meersman and Dennis Vanendert.
"I hope to have my chances here," he admitted. "I will be gunning for the breakaways... I'm here very motivated and I want to be active in this race."
With the Tour de France the ultimate goal, having disappointingly missed the chance to race in 2011, Hansen is warming up to the challenge nicely. When he's not on the bike, Hansen has gained quite the following on twitter for his pranks with teammate Greg Henderson. The Kiwi won't be with him over the next three weeks so it's Kaisen who is bracing himself.
"Well we see what fight Olivier Kaisen can put up for me," Hansen laughs. "He is one of my favourite Belgian guys. Just have to keep an eye on him though, [he's] always playing tricks."