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Lotto’s Hansen keeps grand tour streak alive with Giro start

BELFAST (VN) — Adam Hansen (Lotto-Belisol) will keep his history-making grand tour streak alive when he clicks into the pedals for Friday’s start of the 97th Giro d’Italia.

The 32-year-old Australian has started and finished seven grand tours in a row, a first in cycling history.

For Hansen, his grand tour streak is little more than an anecdote to his career. He simply wants to race, and enters the Giro not with an eye on the streak, but to try to win a stage.

“I do not really think about the fact that this is my eighth grand tour in a row. It doesn’t feel like that, either,” Hansen said in a Lotto press release Thursday. “I want to win a stage in this Giro. I have the form for it, and I’m even better than last year. I hope I get in a breakaway that makes it to the finish.”

Riding all three grand tours in one season was all but impossible until the Vuelta a España was moved to September in 1995.

Since then, there have been a handful of riders who have completed all three grand tours in one season, but no one has come close to Hansen’s durability and consistency.

His streak began at the 2011 Vuelta in his first season in a Lotto jersey. There were hints that the hard-working Hansen had a skill for handling the demands of grand tours. Before 2011, he had finished four of the seven grand tours in which he rode. In both 2008 and 2010, he started two grand tours in the same season.

The Australian joined the European peloton with High Road in 2007, quickly earning a reputation as a solid domestique who would work hard for his team captains. A close link to German sprinter André Greipel, who rode with him at High Road, helped smooth the way for Hansen’s arrival to Lotto in 2011.

In 2012, he was the only rider to start and finish all three grand tours, a feat he matched last season as well. When Greipel was in the race, Hansen would work dutifully to set up the sprints, but he would get his chances to hunt for a stage win.

Victories out of breakaways are perhaps the hardest wins to achieve in a grand tour. Between the decisive GC stages and the sprint-friendly stages, a typical grand tour might only see three or four successful breakaways during three weeks of racing.

It came together for Hansen in 2013 when he won a Giro stage into Pescara (stage 7), a challenging, hilly stage in miserable conditions that saw the peloton fracture into pieces. He rode the last 20 kilometers solo to hold off the chasing peloton.

In last year’s Vuelta, Hansen was third out of a breakaway up Peña Cabarga, the steep, intense climb along Spain’s northern coast where Chris Horner (Lampre-Merida) confirmed his legitimacy as a threat for the overall leader’s jersey.

Coming into this year’s Giro, Hansen already has 24 race days after starts at the Santos Tour Down Under, Tirreno-Adriatico, in which he finished fourth in stage 5, and the Tour of Turkey, where he punched into the top-10.

Hansen said there’s no real secret to his durability and consistency, rather than simply living like a pro and loving to race his bike.

“I don’t need much racing kilometers going into a grand tour, lots of my preparation I do via training. I like to work in blocks — race, rest, train — and not use races as preparation. I want to go to a race and perform,” Hansen said. “Because I spend a lot of time training at home in between the different races, spread over the season, I always have the hunger to race. Every time I go to a race I want to be there.”

As a badge of his domestique status, Hansen has only won three times in his pro career. In addition to his Giro stage win in 2013, he won a stage and the overall at the Ster Elektrotoer in 2010.

For this Giro, in addition to sniffing out breakaway opportunities, he will be riding to help Maxime Monfort in the GC.

“I’ll have my part in the teamwork, supporting Maxime Monfort in his search for a top 10. We have to start with riding a good team time trial on Friday,” Hansen said. “It’s great the Giro starts in Northern Ireland. It’s nice to have a change of scenery and it’s good for the cycling fans in those countries, other than where the grand tours traditionally take place. The Giro is the most exciting grand tour according to me, also to watch. It’s a dynamic race.”

After the Giro, it will be back to Hansen’s program of “race, rest, train.” After all, he’s already penciled in on the startlists for the Tour de France and the Vuelta.

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