Hansen closing in on Grand Tour participation record at Vuelta a Espana

Adam Hansen (Lotto-Soudal) taps the side of his helmet to ‘touch wood’ that, at the end of the 2015 Vuelta a Espana when the peloton rolls into Madrid, he will be amongst them, celebrating that he has finally claimed the record of completed Grand Tours.

In terms of calendar years and Grand Tours, Hansen is currently tied with Spain’s Bernardo Ruiz as one of just two riders to race and complete all three - Giro, Tour and Vuelta - in three straight years. Ruiz did ‘the triple triple’ in 1955, 1956 and 1957, Hansen in 2012, 2013 and 2014, as well as racing and finishing the Vuelta in 2011, and now the Giro and Tour in 2015. He is also tied on completed Tours - 12 - over different seasons with Ruiz.

There has been much somewhat sterile debate on whether the lower number of days in the Vuelta in the 1950s or its taking place in April (until 1994) or September (as of 1995) means the records can be compared. But what is indisputable is that the Grand Tour record will become Hansen’s alone if he reaches Madrid this September 13th, when the Lotto-Soudal rider will have completed all three Grand Tours in four years running, one more complete season of Grand Tours than Ruiz.

“My condition’s ok, if nothing goes wrong I should be able to finish. I’ve felt good for the first three days here. I don’t think there’ll be a performance issue, it’ll be more a question of whether I get sick or injured,” Hansen told Cyclingnews at the start of stage four.

“Ok, there’s maybe stage 11” - with 4,950 metres of vertical climbing in 138 kilometres, rated by Movistar director Eusebio Unzué as the hardest Vuelta stage ever. “That looks extremely difficult and I might not finish that one, but so far so good.”

Three days into the 2015 Vuelta, Hansen says he feels better than at the same point last year, even though that slower start to the Spanish race did not stop him from clinching an impressive third week stage win with a late breakaway. “That’s why I’m feeling so positive.”

In what has become a five-year long mission that is now just weeks away from being completed, Hansen is doing the best he can not to fall at the last fence. “I am being as careful as ever when it comes to eating the right food, but in the race I’m being a lot more careful, trying to avoid the crashes a lot more. Little things. Trying to do the same and stay out of the crashes.”

Hansen says that on an individual level, completing all three Grand Tours is his goal of the year. But as a team in the Vuelta, he is working for Maxime Monfort and Bart De Clercq who are going for the overall, whilst “‘Boecky’” - Kris Boeckmans - “is there for the sprints.

“It’s more about supporting these guys then when we have an opportunity, then we have to take it. I really would like a stage win here, and the weather’s on my side, it’s nice and hot, other guys are suffering a lot more so I hope it will come together.”

Regarding Ruiz, Hansen is a shade sceptical about how it is possible to judge himself against the Spaniard and Ruiz’s record of nine straight Grand Tours, with others sometimes ‘tacked on’ on the years preceding that 1955-1957 block.

“First he did 10 in a row, then somehow he did 12. This is my 13th” - starting in 2011 with the Vuelta - “so whatever happens…when I finish this one, there is no discussion.” The value it will have, he says, is that “it’s always nice to have something that will stay in history. At the moment it’s the number one goal of my year.”

And afterwards? With a two-year contract with Lotto-Soudal already in the bag, what he will do after Madrid? Hansen says, he will “continue to do the same thing.”

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Alasdair Fotheringham

Alasdair Fotheringham has been reporting on cycling since 1991. He has covered every Tour de France since 1992 bar one, 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. As well as working for Cyclingnews, he has also written for The IndependentThe GuardianProCycling, The Express and Reuters.