NEW ORLEANS — When soon-to-be 35-year-old Adam Hansen lines up for the start of the 99th Giro d’Italia, there will be a lot more riding on the race than just an opportunity to add victories to his palmares.
Not only will it be the Australian’s fifth consecutive Giro, the first three-week stage race of the year will also mark his 14th straight grand tour start dating back to the Vuelta a España in 2011 — a record he now owns after eclipsing Marino Lejarreta’s record of 10 last year.
But for the two-time grand tour stage winner (2013 Giro, 2014 Vuelta), “the streak” is nothing the former mountain biker-turned-roadie ever set out to smash, and now admittedly finds himself feeling trapped by his reputation.
“I never had this as a goal to begin with,” Hansen told VeloNews after finishing fifth overall at the Presidential Tour of Turkey last week. “And the worst thing about the streak is that I miss out on so many races.
“I feel like I’m trapped by it and that I sort of have to keep going.”
For the national time trial champion (2008) and two-time Crocodile Trophy winner (2004-05), arguably mountain biking’s most challenging endurance race, the privilege to ride his favourite grand tour and continue his career as a pro cyclist is not lost on the self-proclaimed “tech geek” and owner of his own cycling apparel company — Hanseeno.
“There is still so much more I would like to do both on and off the bike,” explained Hansen, who would still like to tick the Tour of Flanders off his bucket list. “That said, I truly love riding my bike and look forward to each and every grand tour with anticipation and excitement, and this year is no different.
“When I really think about it, I don’t believe there is another rider that wants to be at the Giro more than me.”
Hansen joins teammates Lars Bak, Pim Ligthart, Tim Wellens, Sean De Bie, Maxime Monfort, Jurgen Roelandts, Jelle Vanendert, and André Greipel, who is fresh off a stage win in Turkey ahead of what is assured to be seven sprint opportunities at the Giro against WorldTour rivals Marcel Kittel (Etixx – QuickStep), Caleb Ewan (Orica – GreenEdge), and Sacha Modolo (Lampre – Merida).
“For sure people will see me in action again this edition, in breakaways and aiming for a good result,” said Hansen in the team’s official media release on Thursday. “I can’t tell when and where yet, that also depends on the team tactics.
“Only one thing is sure: It is my birthday on May 11, when it’s the fifth stage. I’m not such a birthday fan, and I don’t like the fuss, but people always remind me. The team likes to celebrate it, but for me it’s just another day.”
While Hansen may be another year older, he is no rush to retire just yet. “The cycling world is so wonderful,” said Hansen, who told VeloNews he plans to race as long as former hour record holder Jens Voigt, who retired two years ago at age 42. “I feel like I should do it while I can. I am so fortunate to travel the world and visit so many cultures.
“Even when I stop racing, I’m still going to be out on my bike training,” he concluded. “It just means when I want to ride my bike in cool places I’ll have to pay for it myself, and that’s going to suck.”
Aaron S. Lee is a cycling and triathlon columnist for Eurosport and a contributor to VeloNews