At 3pm local time, Adam Hansen will roll down the Giro d'Italia start ramp in Apeldoorn to start his 14th consecutive grand tour with Lotto Soudal. The Australian started his run back in 2011 at the Vuelta a Espana and broke the 68-year-old record of 13 straight grand tours held by Bernardo Ruiz at last year's Spanish grand tour.
During his record setting run, he has helped teammates to stage wins in all three grand tours and a stint in the Tour's yellow jersey while also enjoying grand tour stage wins of his own at the 2013 Giro and 2014 Vuelta.
"The Giro will be my fourteenth consecutive Grand Tour and it's nice that I've come this far. But I treat it as any other race, regardless the number," Hansen said of his achievement on the eve of the race. "I want to do this race as much as anyone even though I have done so many Grand Tours. To me it has just become something I do. Also this year I am motivated to ride all three Grand Tours. I do this because I enjoy the style of racing. It's a mix of many different styles and I like to be on the road and have race after race after race."
Since making his grand tour debut at the 2007 Giro, Hansen has missed just seven of the three week races and starts the 99th Corsa Rosa having finished 17 of the 20 he's started. Of the three grand tours, it's the Giro which the 25-year-old looks forward most of all.
"The Giro is the most passionate one of the three Grand Tours according to me. I just love Italy and the atmosphere at the race there," he reflected. "During the stages we often pass beautiful places, but unfortunately it's very difficult to remember exactly where. In all those years I've crossed the whole country and have seen a lot of amazing places which aren't the typical tourist destinations, it's these places I like the most."
Hansen's stage win is just one of the fond memories which contributes to the Giro being such a special race as he added.
"But it's not all fun of course. The Giro always has a super hard profile and the weather conditions can be difficult. You know it's going to be a tricky and hard race. I already had some good years in the past though, with wins working for André Greipel and for Mark Cavendish many years ago," he said. "And then there's of course my own stage win in 2013 in Pescara. It was such a difficult stage, the weather was bad and there were so many climbs and crashes and then it's so nice to come in solo in the rain. My first Grand Tour stage will never be forgotten."
Hansen will again be working for sprinter Andre Greipel in 2016 but is aiming to animate the race on the hillier days via the breakaway after a top-ten at the Tour of Turkey, but won't be tempted to do something special on his birthday during the first week.
"For sure people will see me in action again this edition, in breakaways and aiming for a good result. I can't tell when and where yet, that also depends on the team tactics. Only one thing is sure: it is my birthday on 11 May, when it's the fifth stage," he said. "I'm not such a birthday fan and I don't like the fuss, but people always remind me. The team likes to celebrate it, but for me it's just another day."
Lotto Soudal will also be able to call upon Tim Wellens to chase stage wins across the three weeks with the 24-year-old looking to go one better than his second place on stage 6 of the 2014 Giro, his grand tour debut.
"The goals for the next three weeks match my way of racing. The finales of a few stages really suit me so I'll try to ride aggressively just like always," said Wellens. "I want to obtain some nice results in these stages. I won't aim for a good position on GC. Even if everything would go perfectly, a top fifteen place would be the best possible result. But then I need to ride less aggressively in a few stages and I'm not keen on that. I want to give full gas in some stages and I prefer to win a stage instead of obtaining a top fifteen result."
With Wellens eyeing off the Rio Olympics in August, the Giro is the best placed grand tour for his preparation as he explained a return to the Tour will have to wait to at least 2017.
In 2014, I rode my first Grand Tour in Italy and actually that was a very good race. During the preparations for this season it was already clear from the beginning that I would participate in the Giro. I have the ambition to go to the Olympic Games in Rio, a combination of the Tour de France and the Olympic Games wouldn't be a wise choice," said Wellens who was 129th at last year's Tour.
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