VALDOBBIADENE, IT (VN) – Adam Hansen rode his first grand tour at the 2007 Giro d’Italia. Fittingly enough, 28 grand tours and 13 years later, the 2020 Giro d’Italia will also be the Australian’s last three-week race.
Hansen, 39, will be calling time on a 17-year career dominated by long spells with Team HTC Colombia and his current team, Lotto-Soudal, at the end of this season. That’s not to say he’s moving away from the bike altogether, as the ever-restless veteran will be turning his energies to life as an Ironman triathlete in 2021.
“Going into Ironman was always in the back of my mind, and as I’m getting older I thought I should do it sooner rather than later,” Hansen told VeloNews ahead of the Giro’s second time trial Saturday. “But also with cycling, with race organizers, teams, the UCI, it’s a bit of a mess with the politics, I’m kind of done with it now.”
As one of the most forward-thinking and inquisitive riders in the peloton, it felt inevitable that Hansen would launch into a whole new project when he stepped away from the WorldTour. Having made his Ironman debut at Florida last year, finishing in 9:05, next year will be his first as a full-time triathlete.
Hansen’s side projects include designing electronic lacing systems for shoes, 3D printing surgical face masks, and constantly tweaking his bike position. Thus, the independence and ability to innovate within the triathlon scene was a key selling point for Hansen when he decided to switch sports.
“I’m just looking forward to doing my own thing, being independent, choosing my equipment and setup without having to debate with anyone. Being able to set my diet without justifying it or having someone trying to change something,” he said.
“I’ll get more racing this way too. In cycling, you’re racing but doing a job; helping lead a sprinter or looking after the GC guy, whereas Ironman is more dependent on you and your results. This will be a sport dependent on you and your own results. And yeah, I really believe I can do well in it.”
This year’s Giro, with its cloud of COVID-19 and terrible weather, will be Hansen’s 13th lap of Italy, many of which were completed in his record run of 20-consecutive three-week races. Despite the unprecedented situation at this Giro, Hansen continues to relish the riding.
“I don’t feel sad this is my last one. Actually, I’m enjoying it a lot,” Hansen said. “Okay, we’ve had some pretty bad weather and this whole COVID situation hasn’t been so pleasant. It’s not been a normal Giro, but I feel the best Giros are the ones I’ve already done. I’ve definitely done enough grand tours now to be at the point to not miss them.”
Racing in October rather than May, and sporting face masks rather than sunscreen at team presentations, has made this year’s Giro a novel experience that has helped Hansen divorce himself from any sentiment.
“This doesn’t really feel like a Giro,” he said. “The Giro is normally known to be more of a nice warm summer race that gets a bit of cold weather when you hit the mountains, but here it’s been a bit more like you’re happy when you see a sunny day. And even though it’s been sunny, it’s been cool, and when it rains it’s freezing.”
Hansen’s first three grand tours were won by Danilo di Luca, Dennis Menchov and Alberto Contador. It’s safe to say a lot has changed since then as riders get younger, tactics change, and race-winning strategies evolve.
“The whole field is a lot more competitive now, which makes things a lot harder. The lower and middle fields are a lot better,” Hansen said. “And the tactics definitely changed dramatically. Like yesterday (stage 13, won by Diego Ulissi) was what you could say was almost a classic sprint stage except for the final, and the bunch gave them a maximum of two and a half minutes.
“I remember back in the day, you’d give them 15 minutes, and it’d be really like ‘will we catch them or not?’ It was a bit more exciting on TV, where now they just hold it at two minutes, and I don’t know why it’s like that. If I was in that first break yesterday I’d have just stopped riding as you know there’s no chance.”
Though Hansen largely acted as a road captain and leadout man, he also took stage wins at the Giro and the Vuelta a España. However, his standout moments were during his time as a key cog of André Greipel’s unstoppable Lotto-Soudal sprint unit through the middle of the last decade.
“My best memories from grand tours were with André and the guys for sure,” Hansen said.
“The team was just so well-established and the team was all picked very selectively; we all had our own jobs and we all knew what to do. No rider was better than the other at the other person’s job. With Greg Hendersen, Jürgen Roelandts, we worked so well together, we were unstoppable. It was really nice from a team’s point of view where we really nailed it. You don’t see such specific leadouts anymore, it’s like a lost art.”
While Hansen described a frozen stage through Andorra in the 2013 Vuelta as “one of his worst moments” and is keen to move away from the regulation and restriction of WorldTour life, he may not be entirely done with pro cycling just yet.
“I’ve actually had a few offers from different teams where I could do part cycling, part Ironman, so that’s something I have to really consider if I really want to go down that route or not,” he said.
With such a hybrid model currently successfully operated by Cameron Wurf at Ineos Grenadiers, there is still some chance you’ll be seeing Adam Hansen at a bike race in 2021.
But don’t be surprised if he pulls on his running shoes straight after.