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An interview with Adam Hansen, June 5, 2007
Breaking out of the Giro
Adam Hansen went into the Giro d'Italia with high hopes, but his hopes came crashing down on the second stage. Cyclingnews Susan Westemeyer caught up with the Australian to discuss his Grand Tour debut.
The Giro d'Italia wasn't on Adam Hansen's schedule for 2007. In fact, there were no Grand Tours on the Australian's radar when he donned the magenta jersey for the first time this season, but that changed quickly when the Giro's route was announced. "After hearing about the course and the limited amount of sprint stages, T-Mobile wanted to change its roster a little," he explained. "So I had a choice of starting."
Despite having ridden a steady block of racing since February's Tour of California, the former Crocodile Trophy winner stepped up to the challenge. His late drafting into the roster, in addition to it being his Grand Tour debut, meant Hansen had to be reasonable with his goals. "Number one, to become stronger from it," he pointed out prior to the race. "I want to walk away healthy and not dead. I want it to bring me on to the next level. It's a long way from the Tour of California to the Giro with no rest for a first year pro, so I will take extra care."
While survival is a good starting point for any athlete entering battle, Hansen did have greater hopes for the three-week stage race. "Number two is to get in a breakaway that comes to the finish before the main field," he added. "If I choose to go for a win, then it will be a discussion with my legs, and I hope we can come to a nice conclusion."
While Hansen didn't benefit from the months of preparation dedicated towards the event that other riders endured, he was certainly relaxed having just celebrated his 26th birthday with his teammates the day before the event opening Team Time Trial from Caprera - La Maddalena. "[The TTT is] pretty funny sometimes," he said, "as it creates a bit of stress during and after the race. But after a few hours we all love each other again."
"The easiest part for me was at the front," he noted. "But after that I would have to sprint like crazy just to get back on." Hansen stayed with the team as long as he could, making a special effort after his first two teammates were dropped.
However, after experiencing the pace of the Grand Tour's peloton on the first day, his great adventure came to an end the very next day. "It was so simple," he explained. "A rider in front of me, going uphill, decided to cross my wheel without looking, and there was nothing I could do, as I had a rider on the other side."
Hansen went down hard, but got back on his bike to finish the stage 2.25 minutes down. "In the last 40 kilometres I had huge problems, because that was the hilly part," he reflected on his second and final, for the time being, Giro stage. "I couldn't brake well or stand up. Getting dropped on every corner and not being able to brake with one hand made it hard to descend."
Instead of hitting the road in Sardinia the next day, Hansen boarded a plane and headed to his squad's home in Germany, where he was taken to the Freiburg Clinic. There, Hansen underwent a complicated, three-and-a-half hour operation to repair four breaks in his right ring and little fingers. The surgeon also repaired cartilage which, "was a huge jigsaw puzzle to put back together."
Hanson's fingers were put back together with a number of screws and plates, as the x-rays show. "I couldn't believe you could put so much metal inside someone!," said Hansen. Fortunately for the frequent flyer, it is all titanium which won't set off the metal detectors.
"I should be off the road for four weeks," he noted. While he probably hadn't counted on being injured at the time, the timing fits in perfectly with the Australian's planned break from racing. His next race will be the Österreich Rundfahrt, July 8 - 15, where he finished in 12th position last year.
"I'm not too worried about it, to be honest," Hansen dismissed his injury. "I will be fresh for the final part of the year and very motivated to do well. Okay…I'm trying to stay positive."
Hansen did have one regret about his early departure from the Giro, admitting that he wished to be there to help teammate Marco Pinotti defend the Maglia Rosa. "I only wanted to be the best domestic and I would have loved to ride in front of him and have helped him defend it," confessed Hansen. "That would have been a great honour for me."
While this would have been his first three-week race, Hansen has twice won the two-week Crocodile Trophy, a mountain bike stage race through inhabitable parts of the Australian outback. Despite the rugged conditions in the 'Croc Trophy', Hansen isn't convinced it counts as training for a race like the Giro. "It wasn't easy, by any means," he noted. "But the last time I did it was in 2005, so maybe if I did it last year, it would have been a help. But it's a year and a half since I have done a very long stage race."
The Giro call up wasn't the only first for Hansen in his 2007 season to date, he also contested his first Belgian classics this year.He enjoyed the cobbles and the hard racing, so much so he's already planning for next year's Spring Classics. "I need to have better positioning in the field, and knowing the roads better would not hurt," he said. "Next year I will develop this by basing myself in Belgium during the start of the year, so that I can get to know all the roads before I race on them."
Hansen also rode the Ardennes Classics, including Liege-Bastogne-Liege. Although he didn't finish the race, he says it was the kind of course that suits him. "When I look at myself five to six years down the road, I believe the Ardennes Classics will suit me well," he noted. "But before I develop into a rider like that, I would like to compete in the cobble classics, as I believe it's a good building block for a rider like me. I carry a lot of excess weight and you can't have this in the Ardennes Classics and do well."
His best finish this season was sixth in Le Samyn, although it looked like he would finish on the podium, until duty called. "That was a good race for me," Hansen said. "Many crosswinds, and knowing the roads was not so important because of the lapped finish, plus having Allan [Peiper] as DS in the car made it very easy."
"I was in a break with Jimmy Casper and Philippe Gilbert and it looked good, real good," he explained. "Then two riders came across, Bastiaan Gilling and Roger Hammond. Roger being my captain, I instantly turned to work for him, which is no problem for me. But that just means I had to do the work and race for someone else."
While happy to have a crack at the world's longest stage races, such as the Giro, as a first year professional the rider believes it will take some time before be matures enough to seriously tackle the lengthy events. "For sure I do better in one-day races," he said. "I'm a first-year pro, so maybe the stage races might get easier when I have more racing under my belt. I believe in the future I will get better at the stage races as I became a more complete cyclist, but this takes time."
For all of the good things that have happened this season, he has had to put up with some bad ones, all associated with the Freiburg University Clinic and Dr. Lothar Heinrich. Hansen was signed by T-Mobile on Hansen's recommendation and depended heavily on him to develop his training plans.
But now, in the still unfolding Telekom-1990s doping scandal, Heinrich has confessed to providing illegal doping products to team members during that period. The ties between the Clinic and the team have been broken, and the Clinic has fired Heinrich. Hansen won't let this get him down, saying "I'm just trying to stay focused on my sport."
He will also have to look for someone else to take over care of his hand, a situation which infuriates team manager Bob Stapleton. The Clinic announced that it was cancelling its contract with the team effective immediately, leaving the team in a search for team doctors, and leaving Hansen up in the air. "Who will look after his hand?" fumed Stapleton. "It should be the doctors who did the surgery. If it is not properly handled, he could suffer from severe arthritis in the next few years - and he is only 26. It is irresponsible."
Meanwhile, Hansen knows what he has to do to ensure his future success as a pro cyclist: "keep improving, stay very focused, and do my best. There is no more that I can do."