Riding all three of the grand tours in one year was a long-stated goal for the quiet but tough Australian, and this year he was finally able to do it.
“It felt like a test, to see what is possible and if the body could hold up through it all,” Hansen told Cyclingnews. “I wanted to do this for myself, just to see.”
Hansen reached Madrid at the end of the Vuelta but his body almost didn't hold up.
“There were some moments where I thought things were not going to happen. That was in the Giro where I broke my sternum, which I did not find out till afterwards the race with an MRI: that was really painful. Then in the Vuelta, I landed on my hip. But apart from those two crashes I did well. I only had two bad days in the three grand tours and that's not bad.”
Hansen, 31, struggles to pick his favourite race of the three.
“They were all different entirely. The Giro is a beautiful race with the passion of the fans and Italy itself, its very rewarding to ride and with the teams goals there, it was a nice mix for ourselves," he says.
“The Tour is like getting down to business, where you feel the pressure more. In the Tour Lotto Belisol really rode as a team, had two goals and we achieved them very well. It was nice to be a part of both VDB's most successful Tour with fourth in GC and also Andre's most successful Tour."
"Then the Vuelta, which is normally my favourite of the 3G's, because it is a more relaxed and opportunistic race, where guys have a chance for breakaways that stay away until the end. But this year it wasn't like that."
Hansen personal highlight was in fact “the whole year in general. Its nice to walk away from a season and knowing it was a good one. As a domestique it's nice to be part of so many wins and also high calibrated wins.”
He has a place in the lead-out train setting up sprints for Andre Griepel, and things worked out significantly better in 2012 than they did in 2011 with the German sprinter taking 19 wins instead of the eight of the previous year.
“Andre's train is really getting together now. With the guys like Greg [Henderson], [Jürgen] Roelandts, Sibi (Marcel Sieberg) and Lars [Bak], we are all different in our abilities and those abilities fit well in the train where they are needed,” Hansen explains.
Sprint work is not Hansen's only role in the team but when asked what his role is, he answers: “Sometimes I don't really know...... I feel it's really just to look after the situation, work as a team and be part of that regardless of the task. When things turn haywire that's where I feel I must really step in and turn things back to the plan, that would be bring Andre or VDB back in contention after a puncture or crash. Closing an impossible break where tactics were miscalculation, something like that. It seems though at every race I go to, I have a valid role to do.”
Grand tours in 2013
It is possible that Hansen may ride all three grand tours again in 2013.
“After speaking with Herman [Frison, sport director] the other day, it seems I will do almost the same as I did this year. Changing only a few races. If it means the 3G's then I will decide that after the Tour.”
That is, assuming Lotto Belisol has a WorldTour licence. And Hansen does assume so.
“The core group of riders in Lotto-Belisol don't believe that the licence will be an issue for us. Lotto is the longest sponsoring sponsor in the cycling and I think these types of teams are very important for the UCI,” he says.
No matter what licence the team gets, his goal for 2013 is “to have a repeat of this year would be nice.”
After wintering at his home in the Czech Republic, for the “White Christmas,” Hansen will return to his native Australia for the nationals and the Tour Down Under. Like every other rider in the peloton, he has been surprised by the impact of the Lance Armstrong investigation.
“It was a well done case and treated like a proper investigation, rolling one witness at a time, building evidence until having enough to use it against him," he says. “But, I don't like how it was sorted out now, that's unfair on the current generation as we get tarnished for something that's unrelated to us. I feel we are paying the price of something that happened before my career. But like anyone, if he doped, then he should be punished and if he didn't, then he shouldn't.”