Herald Sun Tour: Lasse Norman Hansen takes revenge for prologue defeat

Dane comes up trumps in chaotic finish in Warrnambool

In the space of 24 hours, Lasse Norman Hansen experienced both the highs and lows of professional cycling.

On Wednesday night, a mistake in the prologue cost the Aqua Blue Sport rider what he thought was his best shot at Jayco Herald Sun Tour victory. Some 227 kilometres to the west of Victoria's capital, in Warrnambool, Hansen emerged from a select nine-rider group as the winner and new race leader, after crosswinds and echelons blew stage 1 to pieces.

His stage win is the second of his road career and arguably a better result than a short prologue. In any case, it was a swift and sweet revenge.

"Fuck yeah. Sorry about the swearing, but it makes the feeling a lot more special and better," Hansen told reporters when asked if the stage win was enhanced considering the prologue loss. "I am really happy to make up for it today and get away with the win and jersey."

The 2012 Olympic Omnium gold medallist Hansen signed a two-year deal with Garmin–Sharp in 2014 but continued to balance a road and track career. Bronze medals in the Team Pursuit and Omnium at the 2016 Olympic games were among his rewards for doing so. However, the 25-year-old is looking to make his mark on the road full-time, and has started his 2018 season in style with Aqua Blue Sport's first win of the new season.

"I have been trying to convert my track palmarès onto the road for a few years now and it seems like this year is off to a good start. Maybe it is the year I finally make the transition," said Hansen, who made his Grand Tour debut last year at the Vuelta a Espana. "I am really happy to put the team on the map and hopefully it will give us some invitations to bigger races."

The stage along the tourist drive of the Great Ocean Road promised carnage, but it was the inland roads where the damage was done. The change in wind direction provided the impetus for Trek-Segafredo and Mitchelton-Scott to blow the race part. While a number of track riders failed to make the split, Hansen was front and centre with his teammates. Explaining that he expected crosswinds, Hansen said he was therefore ready when they came into play, a sign of his growing road nous and multi-discipline bike handling skill.

"I was expecting crosswinds and a big split in the peloton. I didn't expect it to split more times with 20km to go when we were down to 20 guys," he said. "I didn't expect it to go down to 10 guys in the last two kilometres but, for me, that was the bonus as it made for less guys to look out for."

In 2018, Aqua Blue Sport is running a unique bike set-up in the peloton. The team is riding fully disc-equipped 3T bikes with a single front chainring. Although Hansen's set up "made a difference" in the win, his success wasn't totally down to to his machine.

"I don't know about the disc brakes. There was not a lot of braking today, it was more full gas… And today you didn't need a small chainring at all," Hansen said.

Looking ahead to stage 2 into Ballarat with a finish that takes in the Australian national championships circuit, Hansen assessed his chances of holding yellow and repeating his stage win.

"I hope so and if I can't win then I'll make sure one of my teammates can," he said before heading off to anti-doping with Wednesday already a distant memory.

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