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An interview with Adam Hansen, February 20, 2008
Adam Hansen, the disbelieving national champion
Adam Hansen of Team High Road won the Australian national time trial title – much to his own astonishment. Actually, he was hoping to win the road title, but was disappointed to only finish second in that race. The Aussie has now turned his attention to the 2008 season, and Cyclingnews' Susan Westemeyer caught up with him in California before the start of the Tour of California.
"It's kind of funny, I still don't look at myself as national champion," the 26 year-old said in disbelief of his time trial win six weeks ago. "I find it hard to believe that it's something that I have accomplished. I've competed in many different sports in my younger years and never really thought to become a national champion because I thought it was not possible I could be one. So while I love it, I don't always seem to remember."
Hansen had actually gone into the nationals hoping to win the road race and, well, just to survive the time trial. "I will still enter the time trial, for experience, and there's nothing like an hour of pain, err, fun," he said the beginning of January.
Having won the time trial, he then hoped to repeat in the road race, but he finished second behind Silence-Lotto's Matthew Lloyd, and was, he said, "pretty disappointed, I really wanted to do the double, but a better man won. That's the way it is and I was not that man. The course suits me to the ground and I had the form, but it goes back to the problem, I was not the better man."
Hansen got off to a reasonably good start with the team last year, and was thrilled to ride the Giro d'Italia in his first ProTour season. However, that came to a quick and abrupt halt, as he crashed on the second stage, breaking his right ring and little fingers in four places. Surgery was successful – "for riding the hand is perfect, but for some other things it's not so easy. Shaking someone's hand firmly hurts. So it's a little tender."
He returned to the peloton over the summer, finishing off the season with not only the Vuelta a España – finishing 89th – nearly two hours down on overall winner Denis Menchov, but also the Worlds time trial race, where he came in 38th.
The off-season was marred by the news that Deutsche Telekom was leaving its sponsorship contract early, leaving the team without a title sponsor. However, team manager Bob Stapleton announced that he would continue the team under the name Team High Road, and the news that he would be able to finance the team for perhaps two years without an additional sponsor was a great relief to the riders. "I must admit, we all feared for the next step, but Bob being Bob, he got a good deal so the team can continue – this was important."
The whole episode showed what kind of a man the team manager and team owner is, Hansen explained. "Bob's not a man who runs a team for money. He is smart enough to know it's not a moneymaking business (within his league). He does it because he loves cycling and believes in the sport. I also think he just likes to help people succeed and people like us need people like him to have that chance, and he is giving that to us."
An important part of the 'new' USA-based team is its strong anti-doping programme, one to which the Australian has no objections. "I don't mind it, it's part of the job and I choose the job. It's not all that bad," he said mildly. Nor does he object to the new whereabouts requirements, noting that he has "nothing to hide."
He continued, "Like I said before, it's part of the job. It is hard sometimes to say where I will be at any given time, because I don't even know. I'm all for a GPS tracking system. It would make life easier. Than they could come to where I am, any time they wish and I wouldn't have to fill out forms. I've got nothing to hide, so they can throw any system they wish at me."
Hansen started off the 2008 regular season helping team-mate André Greipel win the Tour Down Under. After a brief visit to his European home in the Czech Republic, he flew on to High Road's training camp in Pismo Beach, California. The team is a mixed lot of young and old, newcomers and team veterans, and a wide variety of nationalities.
That mix pleases Hansen, and makes him optimistic for the coming season, including the Tour of California, which he is riding on the heels of the team's camp. "High Road as a group of riders is a very strong team. I don't know if it's because I know the riders' personal performances well, but when I think of everyone individually. I can say they all are very good riders. Because of the many nationalities, there aren't so many strong little groups but one whole group, so everyone gets along real well together."
The training camp introduced him to wind tunnel testing for the first time, so that he could improve what is obviously already a good position. "It was cold, very cold, and interesting. I love numbers and that's what this is all about," Hansen said enthusiastically.
"At the end of all the runs they sit you down and show all of your improvements in the different positions that were tested. So we changed my set-up to the best one, which is not always the case as, while a certain position can gain a minute per hour, that does not mean you can hold it for more than three minutes, because of blockage, small angles with the femur and hip position, et cetera. To be honest, I had some troubles, but I have trained in it while at camp and I can hold it for a very long time. So I'm very happy with my little visit to the wind tunnel."
He put the position on test during the opening day of the Tour of California, where he placed 22nd in the prologue, 14 seconds back from winner Fabian Cancellara.
Following California, which he also rode last year, he will compete in Kuurne-Bruxelles-Kuurne and some other Belgian races. "My highlights are Critérium [International], [Tour of] Georgia and Dauphiné [Libéré]; they are the ones I really want to succeed in." He wasn't sure about which Grand Tours he could race this year.
Hansen wishes to do well in those three races, but "winning some smaller races is also one of my targets. I want to focus on the time trials and stage races which have them. We have a lot of top riders in our Team High Road, so there is not that much chance for us all. So these are the races I can go for myself."
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Images by Team High Road