Norman Hansen eager to equal track success on the road with Cult

Denmark’s Olympic gold medallist targets the track in Rio while trying to find the opportunities on the road that eluded him at Cannondale.

NEW ORLEANS — After two years riding the WorldTour with Garmin, Lasse Norman Hansen, 23, is happy for a change of scenery, especially considering his transition from the boards to the pavé has not gone as smoothly as he had hoped following his Olympic gold medal in the track omnium three years ago.

The Dane drops down to Pro Continental by signing a two-year deal with Cult Energy-Stölting Group, and joins recent signees such as compatriot and Tour de l’Avenir stage winner Mads Pedersen, as well as former Milano-Sanremo winner and under-23 world road race champion Gerald Ciolek. The newly signed trio joins Ciolek’s countrymen and current team riders Fabian Wegmann and Linus Gerdemann, both of whom have received contract extensions.

“There wasn’t much doubt in my mind,” stated Hansen in the team’s official media release. “I think going to Cult Energy-Stölting Group is the right choice for me at this point in my career. I get a chance to focus on both road racing as well as pursuing my personal goals on the track and especially the 2016 Olympic Games where I’m looking forward to defending my gold medal from 2012.”

VeloNews caught up with Hansen at the start of the Taiwan KOM Challenge in Hualien on Friday, October 30 to discuss what he claims was a “rollercoaster” on the road with Garmin.

“It has been a tough transition from the track to the road,” Hansen admitted. “I’ve seen it done before, and I thought I could do it better than I did. I’m not saying that I didn’t perform well, but the chances I had I didn’t spend wisely, and by doing that I didn’t get all the chances I think I deserved. It’s just been a couple of tough years but that’s my own fault, and I can’t blame anyone else.”

Prior to riding the 105-kilometer, non-UCI-sanctioned sportive in Taiwan, Hansen was fresh off a solid Tour of Alberta performance in September, where he captured his first professional stage win en route to finishing sixth overall, as well as third on youth classification and ninth on points.

Following Alberta, Hansen returned to the velodrome in October and earned silver at the European omnium championships before competing in the six-day London.

“I’m aiming straight for Rio right now and trying to qualify for the velodrome,” said Hansen. “My chances look very good at the moment. I am very happy with my second-place finish at the Euro championships behind [Elia] Viviani, who I believe is one of the biggest contenders.”

As for the road, Hansen looks forward to making the most of his new opportunity with Cult Energy, which made the jump up from Continental this year.

“There is more than one reason I am excited,” he said. “I really like the fact that they do many of the same races as I’ve done this year.

“The attitude is different, and they are kind of the underdogs, and I like racing from that position,” Hansen concluded. “This is a very organized team and everything about it good for me.”

Aaron S. Lee is a cycling and triathlon columnist for Eurosport and a guest contributor to VeloNews.