Australia's Adam Hansen will - once again - be present at the start of a Grand Tour this Saturday, and the Lotto-Belisol pro is, he says, more than ready for the experience that will reinforce his reputation as a Grand Tour 'Iron-man'.
Like last year, after racing the Giro d'Italia (where he won a stage in 2013) the 33-year-old will be working for German sprinter André Greipel and top Belgian general classification contender, Jurgen Van Den Broeck, in the Tour de France. 'VDB' has twice been fourth overall at the Tour but in 2013 had a bad crash in the first week, was injured and had to abandon.
For Hansen, on a personal level, the 2014 Tour will be his ninth Grand Tour in a row, in a series which started with the 2011 Vuelta a España. Completing it would keep him on track for a third straight triple of Grand Tours, too, given that if he rides the Vuelta, he would then be in a position to equal the record jointly held by Spain's Marino Lejaretta - who rode and finished all three Grand Tours in 1989, 1990 and 1991 - and another Spaniard, Vuelta winner Bernardo Ruiz, who did the same in 1955, 1956, and 1957.
"I've come off well from the Giro [finishing 73rd], I feel very happy with that, I got a lot of rest, and then started re-building my form towards the Tour," Hansen told Cyclingnews.
"I think Van Den Broeck will be in great form, we could see that in the [Criterium du] Dauphiné, [where Van den Broeck took third, his best WorldTour placing since the Volta a Catalunya in 2012 - ed.]"
"He was back in good form, very excited. Last year was a bad Tour for us, we only had one win whereas the year before we won three stages [all with Greipel - ed.]. This time I want to help Van Den Broeck, to see if he gets on the podium and I can be part of that."
Hansen says that the Dauphine was a huge boost to Van Den Broeck's morale: "You're only ever as good as your last race, and he's climbing really well. In the Tour he's had a lot of ups and downs, crashes and so on, and I think that mentally it has affected him a lot. You could see that in Tirreno-Adriatico, he was struggling hard there because of a crash.
"He needed a result to be on the ball again. He definitely trains hard enough, he's focused enough, but the Dauphine has given him the reminder that he's good enough, too. And he's going to be twice as good at the Tour."
And Hansen? A few weeks back, in fact, Hansen did some interval sessions over a particular distance, and the last one - which he did at maximum speed - he was "one second off my personal best. I was very happy about that."
If major Tours hold few secrets for Hansen, where he will be on rather less familiar ground is in England. "I have never raced there," he said. But that inexperience has some compensations: Hansen could hardly ask for a more high-profile start to his GB race program than when he rolls up to the Tour's startline on Saturday, in Leeds.
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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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