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News feature, October 10, 2006
Adam Hansen signs with T-Mobile for 2007
'Crocodile Man' in Magenta
Australian Adam Hansen certainly isn't one to turn down a challenge. After a few years riding for Continental Professional teams in Austria, the 25-year-old is ready to take the big step and ride for T-Mobile in the Pro Tour next year. But is the Pro Tour really a challenge to a young man who has twice won the Crocodile Trophy, which has been called 'the hardest race on the planet'? Cyclingnews' Susan Westemeyer caught up with him as he announced his signing with the German team.
First of all, just what is the Crocodile Trophy? "You can't explain the Crocodile Trophy," he says. "I wish I could, but there are no words to explain it. It's a mental race. It's hard as hell, physically and mentally. It's a race that takes you so far out of your comfort zones, you wish you'd never signed the start sheet. The only way to have a close idea is to race it, because there is no other race like it."
Indeed, there is certainly no European race like it. An earlier interview with Hansen describes the race this way: "It involves 15-days of slogging it out in bulldust, corrugated tracks and creek crossings in stifling tropical heat. When each stage is over, the riders pitch tents at night and hand-wash knicks before the next day's torture."
After not only riding that race twice, but actually winning it twice, the thought of riding around Europe in its genteel races must sound like a vacation. But the transition to the European racing scene was a bit more difficult than expected. In 2005 he rode for the Pro Continental Team Elk Haus, an experience he doesn't like to remember. "If something could go wrong, it did go wrong. That was my season at Elk Haus."
He could have continued with that team, but chose to transfer to the smaller APO Sport Team. "I had a better support and atmosphere there. It's a rider's dream to have a sports director like the one I did at APO Sport, Christoph Resl."
Trying to break into the big times is not easy. The team's main goal, "is the National Series Cup Races in Austria, so there isn't much of a broad racing program. Plus, at Conti level, it's very hard to get accepted into the bigger races where you have to perform to get into the big league (Pro Tour). It's a Catch-22. But almost every UCI-ranked race I did, I got top ten results." Those results include a win the 1.2 ranked Gran Prix Bradlo, and second in the 1.2 ranked Salzkammergut-Giro and the Giro del Mendrisotto. But perhaps more importantly, he finished second in the Australian national road race and sixth in the time trial.
Now he's ready to take on the competition in the Pro Tour. Hansen's association with T-Mobile goes back several years. "I got a medical test with T-Mobile in 2004. My results got Dr. Lothar Heinrich's (team doctor) attention. He very nicely asked if he could monitor some of my training, and later gave me some better ideas for the following season."
T-Mobile's new anti-doping campaign didn't scare him off. On the contrary, he sees it as an attraction. "I always liked T-Mobile and the new anti-doping program they have now is something very special and it's what cycling needs to keep the fans hanging around," Hansen says. "It's going to be great to be part of their new anti-doping campaign and with this type of mentality, it's going to make me very comfortable to join a Pro Tour team with this way of thinkin. T-Mobile is now a role model for the other teams to follow and why would any rider not want to be part of something that's going to help our sport?"
That's the sort of attitude that incoming General Manager Bob Stapleton was looking for in new recruits. Hansen is "very motivated and proud to be in magenta. That makes a difference," Stapleton said.
Hansen has modest ambitions for his role at T-Mobile. "I'm more of an all-rounder at the moment. I've got a good time trial and can ride short hills well. I'm best in one-day races, but also good in shorter stage races. But in my heart I just want to be the best work horse!"
Hansen will be joining fellow Australians Michael Rogers and Scott Davis at T-Mobile, as well as New Zealander Greg Henderson, Canadian Michael Barry, American Aaron Olson, and Englishmen Mark Cavendish and Roger Hammond - which gives the team a large native English-speaking contingent. "We are taking over, aren't we?" he asks happily.
He'll be seeing those future teammates soon. Hansen is currently at his European residence in the Czech Republic with his Czech fiancée, Alena Konecna. But next week he will be attending the first team meeting and team-building exercise - and it will be the chance to see how Australia's 'Crocodile Man' does in the wilds of Lugano...
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Images by Mark Watson/mwphotography.com.au
Images by Marketa Navratilova/Cor Vos/www.corvospro.com
Images by John Flynn/Cyclingnews.com
Images by Fotoreporter Sirotti