After the 'Crocodile', Hansen making impact at the Tour
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Wednesday, July 09, 2008

After the 'Crocodile', Hansen making impact at the Tour

by Agence France-Presse at 8:31 AM EST   comments
Categories: Pro Cycling, Tour de France
 
As far as Tour de France cyclists go, Adam Hansen would admit he sticks out from the bunch. But the all-round talents of the Aussie who grew up in Cairns are not being wasted by Team Columbia as their leader Kim Kirchen edges towards the yellow jersey.

A softly-spoken 27-year-old who grew up playing rugby union, basketball and athletics before finally trying his hand at triathlon, Hansen's big career break came during a gruelling performance test for German giants T-Mobile while he was racing for a small amateur team in Austria.

Thanks in part to his impressive physiology, and his liking for the cross-training methods that most cyclists avoid like the plague, it's no surprise he appears one of the fittest riders in the peloton.

Finding Hansen among the bunch should be relatively easy - he's the one riding comfortably on the drops, the lower part of the handlebars that normally serve to guide the bike on the fast, downhill sections, when everyone else is leaning on the top of the brakes.

"I know I have a stronger (body) core than most riders, so I can ride on my drops a lot longer," Hansen, who only turned professional in 2003, told AFP.

"Because of the cross training I do I'm more flexible." Compared to the many Aussies who have come to road cycling through dedicated Institute of Sport programmes, Hansen's route to the Tour is far less classic. It hasn't proved an obstacle - in 2006 he was second in the national championships' road race, a result he repeated in January 2008, when he raced to the national time trial title.

Still, his road to his first Tour is remarkable. "I know more Austrians than Australians here," he added. "Most of the Australians here went through the AIS (Australian Institute of Sport), and they've been developed through that.

"I've come my own way. It's a handicap to start, because you get no support at all. But once you've made it (as a professional) I suppose it doesn't matter after that."

For some, Hansen is still likely more known for twice winning the gruelling Australian race the Crocodile Trophy, one of the mountain bike races he liked to do "on the side".

A road career only beckoned after his move to Austria, and mostly when his manager told former T-Mobile coach Walter Godefroot about his potential.

"T-Mobile said I could come and do a performance test, which they were very impressed with," said Hansen. "That opened their eyes a bit and they watched me over the following year and when the new team was created I was able to join."

After T-Mobile pulled out of sponsoring Germany's numer one team two years ago following a string of doping scandals, in stepped American Bob Stapleton.

Stapleton renamed the squad 'High Road' and reinvented the team's approach - based on a strict anti-doping programme - and philosophy. Hansen was kept on board, and after a solid Giro d'Italia performance Stapleton gave him his Tour chance.

"This is an open team and Adam fought his way on to the Tour," Stapleton told AFP. "He's a disciplined and focused trainer and he knows what he needs to do. He excelled on the Giro and did a great job for us here on the first stage."

Before the Tour, Stapleton managed to attract a new, major sponsor in Columbia sportswear. After an exciting week of racing, they are now likely rubbing their hands ahead of Thursday's stage, when Kirchen could take the yellow jersey.

The depth of Hansen's talents is exemplified by the fact he will be expected to help Kirchen on the climbs, as well as British teammate Mark Cavendish in the bunch sprints.

The only complaint from Stapleton is that he didn't get his hands on the Aussie earlier. "It's a shame Adam had such a late start in road cycling," he added. "It means he is still picking up on a few of the more subtle details like how to ride in the bunch, but he is very aware and observant - and he's a fast learner. "He's got a definite role here, but when the chance comes along we will contribute him to breakaways."
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