According to Adam Hansen (Lotto Belisol) completing three Grand Tours in 2012 not only made him stronger, but far more efficient as a rider. It's a nice parallel when you consider that not only has the 32-year-old designed a logistics program using his computer programming background for his team to ease travel pressures across the WorldTour, but also his own shoes.
There were murmurs from the peloton at the Cycling Australia Road National Championships in January. The moulded cleats attached to a rudimentary-looking shoe that Hansen was sporting had fast garnered attention among the local riders back home. Cyclingnews asked the rider about his unique bit of kit then but he wanted to wait until the product was officially ready with the shoes set to be available to the public in July under his eponymous label, Hanseeno.
To suggest that the development of his very own shoes has been a bit of a process, could best be described as an understatement with 16 prototypes required for them to reach their current form. More than just 'Adam being Adam', his custom-made shoes are borne out of necessity.
"I have an odd-shaped foot," he told Cyclingnews. "I have a bone that extrudes where the normal buckle on cycling shoes are, which means I can never wear a shoe with a ratchet system. It's too much pressure on the bone. I have always used three-strap shoes in the past because of this. I had a perfectly-fit shoe once and they stopped producing them; I continued to use them for four years after production stopped."
Needing another option, Hansen worked off a foot mould prepared by Proarch Podiary in Cairns, Australia, where he's been a long-time client, developing numerous designs within the UCI regulations until they just felt right. No matter how many times the design and manufacture changed, the final result had to be lightweight. It's always been the little things that drive Hansen, a regular on the Weight Weenies forum, so-called 'marginal gains' before they were thrust into the cycling vernacular via Sir David Brailsford and Team Sky. The finished product at 105 grams is essentially a carbon sock with a moulded cleat attached. They look sleek and simple, as described on the inrng blog as "what looks like a pack of carbon fiber pre-preg, some fishing line and a ratchet dial from an old Sidi shoe" - but the process is anything but.
"I wish it was so simple like this," Hansen revealed. "For a pair of these shoes, it requires six different moulds. In the final process the pre-moulded cleat is attached to an Aquapour mould where four layers of 160 gram twill weave carbon is laid with a honeycomb sandwich Coremat between the reinforced fabrics to the sole of the foot mould with standard mixing ratio of epoxy resin.
"Then on the upper part of the mould a single layer of Kevlar 50 gram plain weave is laid, another two layers under the Sidi ratchet system, plus 60 grams of carbon plan weave over the top before a single piece of 160 gram twill weave carbon fabric around the entire mould bottom and top. This second process is made with a different mixing ratio of epoxy resin. A special third mixture is then added to plasticise the upper layer for a softer more comfortable feel."
The result is a consistent tension across the foot, something Hansen describes as comfortable and "very nice". Reactions within the peloton have been mixed Hansen admits, with his design really starting to grab people's attention at the Tour of Turkey, then there's the polarising issue of the all-black colour scheme.
"The shoes are different that is for sure," he said. "It looks nothing like the space boots with dials, ratchet systems and plastic parts that are all over current shoe designs. It's very sleek and lean-looking. Currently they are plain black carbon, so some really like them, some don't - but not many people like plain black shoes either."
Mixed emotions under a bright spotlight in Pescara
Riding to a solo victory on Stage 7 of the Giro d'Italia last week in Pescara, Hansen joined an elite group of Australians as having won a stage of the Italian Grand Tour, following in the wheels of Anderson, Wilson, McKenzie, McEwen, McGee, Evans, Gerrans, Lancaster, Lloyd and Goss. The latter two may be the only ones that stick in the Queenslander's memory, simply because he also rode in those editions, but climbing onto the top step of the podium at the Giro had long been something that Hansen had desired on his palmares.
"I always wanted a Giro stage," Hansen told Cyclingnews. "The Giro is the first grand tour I did [in 2007 - ed.]. So for me it was the first big highlight change in my career just starting."
Quietly, but eloquently spoken as he may be, Hansen is not a fan of the spotlight and so standing on the podium last Friday was not somewhere that the hard-working domestique who, for the majority of the season is at the service of André Greipel felt at ease. Meantime, the congratulations were pouring in for one of the nice guys of the peloton - all the while Hansen's mind was on the remaining stages.
"I'm not so fond of all the attention personally," he explained. "Winning the stage and going directly to the hotel would have been ideal. Even standing on the podium felt strange, being put on a pedestal looking down... I don't know; I'm here to race."
In racing the Giro, Hansen is competing in his fifth-straight Grand Tour. Endurance has never really been an issue with his triathlon background and who has been known to take long hikes in the snow during the off-season where the aim is to keep his heart-rate as low as possible, but there is more to his Grand Tour plans in 2013. Riding the Giro, the Tour de France and the Vuelta a España was something that "just happened" in 2012, taking a "why not" attitude once the lap around France was complete. This time, all three have been pencilled into his race calendar from the start of the season and he will prepare accordingly.
"I've been working on my climbing a little more this year and knowing that I will aim for all three GTs again," Hansen explained. "I am thinking more forward with my training based on them."
That work was there for all to see on Stage 7 of the Giro, when Hansen rode away from his breakaway companion Emanuele Sella (Androni Giacattoli) on the Santa Maria de Criptis with 20km left to race on the 177km stage.
The Grand Tour environment is harsh. His 2012 odyssey resulted in a fractured sternum at the Giro and a painful hip from a crash at the Vuelta but the three long weeks in the saddle punctuated by the odd rest day, is something that Hansen revels in, always keen to see just how far he can push his own body.
"I love them," he admitted. "I always ride better in them no matter what form I have before starting. For me I like the time away, focusing and having a number of chances for the team or yourself. They are a race of mixed emotions. Good things happen, bad things happen and when you finish it feels like going home after a war."
Battles of body and mind aside, the Adam Hansen riding in 2013 is improved on last year.
"It makes you smarter in your efficiency to ride," he explained. "I feel I save a lot more energy now then I use to. I also feel stronger as a rider this year, than last year from doing this."
Apart from shoes, Hansen also has t-shirts and race wear available within his collection. You can find out more by visiting hanseeno.com