Vuelta a Espana: Hansen attains his Grand Tour record in Madrid

Adam Hansen wheeled his bike to a halt on the Paseo de la Castellana in Madrid on Sunday evening at the end of the Vuelta a Espana’s final stage, turned back towards the Lotto-Soudal team staff on the line and slowly but surely, began receiving a series of congratulations for becoming cycling’s new record holder for a continuous series of completed Grand Tours.

The 34-year-old Australian has now taken part in and finished 13 Grand Tours in continuous succession, one more than Spain’s Bernardo Ruiz, the previous record holder, in the 1950s. In the process Hansen has taken two Grand Tour stages, one in the 2013 Giro d’Italia and another in the Vuelta in 2014.

Hansen has now also completed four years of racing all three Grand Tours from 2012 to 2015, one more than Ruiz, who rode the Vuelta, Giro and Tour in a single year between 1955 and 1957.

Hansen told Cyclingnews after stage 21 he had not wanted to start celebrating too early, given the last stage of the Vuelta is always a fraught one. “It’s good to get through this, it’s always a hectic stage, I’m just happy not to crash out. I was trying to do something in the final, but I kept on getting boxed in on the descent [of the Madrid circuit].”

Overall, though, he is aware that getting through was what really counted. As he puts it: “I’m happy I stayed upright…it’s been five years, so this is good.” He has not planned a special celebration in particular, but will, he says, “be having a nice end-of-Tour dinner with the team.”

The final three-week lap of his own 13 Grand Tour, five year, circuit was relatively straightforward, he said. “This Vuelta was a lot easier, compared to the Tour de France, with my crash and injury. It’s ending on a good note.”

The rider Hansen has beaten, Ruiz was present at the start of the Vuelta stage at Torrevieja, near Ruiz’s hometown of Orihuela, but he and Hansen did not cross paths. The 1950s veteran nonetheless told Spanish newspaper AS that he viewed Hansen as “a great professional, a hardworking cyclist who knows how to battle through. People like him are an honour to the sport.” “It makes me proud that someone from the old school should hold me in such consideration,” Hansen told the paper, “I’d liked to have had a chance to ask him about what it was like to race in his time.”

Even as Hansen expressed satisfaction at beating the record in Madrid, Hansen had thoughts for Lotto-Soudal team-mate Kris Boeckmans, still in a long process of recovery from his injuries from his bad crash in Murcia in the Vuelta’s first week.

“We all rode with the number 13 on the back of our bikes, which is Kris’s lucky number, for him,” Hansen said. “And from here we’re wishing him all the best. It was very tough for the team, the days after his crash here. Things like this [his accident] don’t happen, but it’s so easy for them to happen. We’re all wishing him a speedy recovery.”

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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.