At 31, Lotto-Belisol’s Adam Hansen may have had to wait a little longer than he would have liked for his first Grand Tour stage win, but there is no denying that when that opportunity came, he took it with considerable style.
A 147-kilometre breakaway through a rainstorm and on some of the most technically challenging climbs of central Italy is impressive enough, but on top of that the former Australian time trial national champion and computer engineer showed he had more than the measure of his most tenacious rival, Emanuele Sella (Androni) when he dropped the Italian 20 kilometres from the finish on the race’s second last classified climb and soloed away for victory.
“I knew Sella was the strongest rider in the break and I don’t think he expected us to challenge him on the climbs,” Hansen told reporters in a press conference afterwards. “I knew it was a surprise for him. I tried to break him mentally."
“I never believed I could end up sitting here, though, I get in breaks and it always comes back. But then when we were seven minutes ahead, we thought there was a chance and when I heard there was still a gap of two and a half minutes in the bag with six kilometres to go, I knew I had it.”
“This is the biggest win of my life, a very special day. And tomorrow’s my birthday, so it all means a lot to me.”
Hansen had done his forward planning for the stage though and his first win since a stage and overall in the Ster ZLM Tour in Holland back in 2010. “I thought it was the best day to do the break,” he said, “the trickiest thing is always getting into the break in the first place. Once you’re there, it’s almost like you’re in a lottery, you've got a chance.” He even shaved his head before the stage, he said - and raised his team cap to prove it - as a way of making sure he remembered this was going to be a special day.
Although he agreed the weather conditions were very difficult, his directors were so good at giving him information over the radio about the upcoming obstacles, to the point where he could “have done the last 15 kilometres with my eyes shut.” On the ultra-slippery descents, he also erred on the side of caution, but not too much, “because I’m not the best descender, so I decided to try to be as relaxed as possible. I knew if I did crash, I’d be back with the main group, but that if I kept ahead, I’d have a very good chance of winning.”
Best known for having ridden three Grand Tours in one year - in 2012, when he became the second Australian in history to have done so - and facing repeated questions about his past, Hansen then revealed, to murmurs of approval from the local media, that he has an Italian family background. His grandparents come from Fossano in northwest Italy but emigrated to north Queensland, his mother and aunt speak Italian and he even has both an Italian and an Australian passport.
As for how it felt to win in the land of his forefathers, Hansen said, “in terms of the Giro, it doesn’t change anything, I still want to go on working for the team and getting the wins in. Personally, though, it feels very nice: you work and work and work and when you get one back, you appreciate it very much.”
Alasdair Fotheringham has been reporting on cycling since 1991. He has covered every Tour de France since 1992 as well as numerous other bike races of all shapes and sizes, ranging from the Olympic Games in 2008 to the now sadly defunct Subida a Urkiola hill climb in Spain. Apart from working for Cyclingnews.com, he is also the cycling correspondent for The Independent and The Independent on Sunday.
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