While Taylor Phinney (BMC) and Marcel Kittel (Giant-Shimano) dominated the headlines, Lasse Norman Hansen of Garmin-Sharp showed his huge potential and excellent form for the rapidly approaching track world championships, by finishing third in the opening time trial. He was 16 seconds behind Phinney in the 9.9km time trial but was faster than multiple world champions Tony Martin and Fabian Cancellara.
It was an impressive debut with Garmin-Sharp. Yet Hansen remained unruffled. He is used to pressure and success after winning a gold medal on the track in the multi-discipline Omnium event at the 2012 London Olympic Games.
"It's been a good race for me. It started with a great time trial and then on the hilly stage I got over the top with the front guys and that allowed me to finish third overall. I'm really satisfied," he told Cyclingnews with Danish aplomb.
"I'm in a really good shape. The track world championships are just around the corner and I've been in an intense training camp. I knew I was good going into the time trial but my motivation went even higher at the turning point when the team told me I was faster than Cancellara. When I got to the line to line I was hoping I could beat some of the big guys but I wasn't expecting to beat Martin and Cancellara, that was a huge surprise."
Mixing track racing and cobbled Classic dreams
Hansen has opted to abandon the Omnium, despite his Olympic gold, due to the training need to compete in the different events and his desire to excel on the road but is aiming for gold at the world championships.
"I've been doing quite a lot of track specific training because I'm really targeting the worlds," he said.
"I want to do good especially in the team pursuit and then I'm riding the points race too. It's become a big goal for me. I'll be targeting two gold medals.
Garmin-Sharp is encouraging Hansen's tilt at track success but is also keen to help him develop on the road. Soon after the track world championships, he will join the Garmin-Sharp cobbled Classics squad for a baptism of fire in the spring Classics.
"I think it's possible to mix the track and the road to a certain point. I know that over time, the more road pro I go, the less time I'll have for the track. But I don’t want to abandon the track," he explained.
"I've already given up going for the Omnium because it takes up a lot of track time but I've adjusted my goals on the track so it fits with my ambitions on the road. I'm hoping to develop into a Classics specialist in the long-term future, without losing my time trial skills, so I can target one-day races and also short stage races, like the Dubai Tour. There's a lot to build on and a lot to learn."
"Yeah, I'll be doing the cobbled Classics this spring but mostly for experience. I’ll take the chances I get and see what happens, just as I did in Dubai."