Tour Down Under: Climber friendly parcours sees Hansen on team duty

Adam Hansen will line out for his ninth Tour Down Under appearance next week but there will be unfamiliar sensations with his Lotto Soudal team deciding against bringing Andre Greipel Down Under, and instead backing Rafa Valls for overall victory.

Hansen, 35, first rode the Tour Down Under back in 2008 alongside Greipel, helping the German to overall victory. In 2017, the Paracombe finish returns after its 2015 debut while Willunga Hill remains the queen stage, ensuring it's a race for the climbers with Hansen aiming to help Valls to the ochre jersey.

"Coming into Tour Down Under it is a bit different for me now because Andre is not here so I don't do much here in terms of helping him," Hansen told Cyclingnews before heading out on a training ride. "The course has really changed to mountain climbers now so now I just help out my team. This year we don't have any sprinter, normally we have some kind of sprinter, so I'll help out the team a little bit and Rafa going for GC. He won the Tour of Oman two years ago, so we are hoping he can probably get the same kind of result here.

"For me personally, it is nice to be here and help out the team when I can. To do something in this race is very difficult. It is usually an uphill sprint finish and very little chance for the breakaway so there is not much to do," added Hansen who was 23rd at the Australian national road race last Sunday.

Where in the past Hansen would specifically train for the "long lead-out" with Greipel, the Queenslander explained his approach now is to arrive in Adelaide in good shape and race in a domestique role.

Since 2012, the Willunga Hill queen stage has been decisive in shaping the overall standings but in 2017 it is the short, sharp and steep Paracombe climb that is being talked about as the most pivotal of the race. Orica-Scott are aiming to defend the title Simon Gerrans won in 2016 but Hansen believes the team is backing Colombian Esteban Chaves as its primary option for GC on his Australian racing debut.

"I think that is why they brought Chaves here," he said. "Because I think they have more confidence in him than Gerrans. Good luck to Gerrans, but when we came through the other side you go down hill and you only do the last uphill section where there is a lot of climbing just before, so it has really changed the race," he said in reference to 2015 and the different approach to the finish. "We did it yesterday and it is actually surprising how much climbing you do before you hit the last climb. I think if I was going for GC, and I am not, I would be worried about GC." 

Extreme weather and use of disc brakes

One of the hot topics of the off-season was the announcement from the UCI regarding the re-introduction of disc brakes into the professional peloton. Discs were introduced to road racing in the final few months of 2015 but were banned in the wake of Fran Ventoso's 2016 Paris-Roubaix crash. Late last year, the UCI announced the re-introduction of disc brakes on the proviso that rotors are 'rounded'.

While road disc brakes have been scrutinised in regard to safety issues, for Hansen it more a question of logistics than safety but there is currently no short or easy answer as he explained.

"With the disc brakes, that is a long topic. We don't have them yet and I know some teams do and they won't have every rider using the same brake, which is going to be a logistics nightmare. Every rider has to have a bike at home," he said. "Every rider is going to have a bike to race on so it's two extra bikes every rider is going to have to have. It is very expensive for some teams and I know some teams are not ready for it.

"On our team for example, I do believe we have enough groupsets for each rider to have one each but I think we don't have enough frames for everyone yet. We just cannot do it yet. I know some teams are in the same boat but we have good sponsors with Ridley and Campagnolo. They are getting ready for it but there is no pressure from their side for us to us it. It is more what we want to do. A lot of riders are happy with rim brakes. It is not that they are unhappy with disc brakes but for us, ok it is something new, but it is nothing we want to jump on."

While disc brakes are topical, the weather is a constant theme regarding rider safety and health and comes under Hansen's remit as a CPA representative. Last year, Hansen developed an online communication system, known as CPAOCS, which allows riders the option to anonymously respond to questions regarding both issues in an effective and direct manner.

Although temperatures are predicted to hit the high 30s during the first few stages of the race, which could see the UCI's Extreme Weather protocol put in place, Hansen has full confidence in race director Mike Turtur and his staff to make the right decision regarding the health and safety of the riders without need for CPAOCS.

"With the weather at this race, Mike Turtur is very good. If you speak with him, he already has alternative courses planned and everything if it gets too hot to make it shorter and also stay away from the fire hazard areas. Because there are quite a lot of those areas around here. We are in good hands with the race organisers who is very willing to make changes," he explained.

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