Vuelta a España - Australian iron man eyes endurance record

Sitting in the middle of the Vuelta pack while the main contenders prepare for the mountain challenges, Australian Adam Hansen is quietly chipping out his own niche in cycling history.

Vuelta a España - Australian iron man eyes endurance record

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Lotto-Belisol team rider Adam Hansen of Australia drinks a glass of beer as he climbs the Alpe d'Huez (Reuters)

If Hansen, a rider with the Lotto-Belisol team, finishes the race in Madrid on Sept. 15, he will be the first rider since Spaniard Marino Lejaretta in 1991 to complete seven Grand Tours in succession.

Completing two Grand Tours in a single year is considered an exceptional feat for any rider and in cyclng history fewer than 40 have managed to finish all three in one season.

Hansen finished the 2011 Vuelta before completing the Giro d'Italia, Tour de France and Tour of Spain in 2012 and 2013.

"You do get in a routine," Hansen, a 32-year-old from the Gold Coast who won a stage of the Giro in May, told Reuters when asked if he has ever woken up unsure which Grand Tour he was in.

"But if you can handle the routine, you can handle the Grand Tours and you can handle the racing.

"I like doing big blocks of racing and this year so far so good. I had a good season last year, so I thought 'why not keep going and do the same again?'"

With three chunks of nearly a month each spent on the road in 2012, Hansen admits to getting homesick for his adopted European base in the town of Frydlandt nad Ostratici in the Czech Republic.

"I spend a lot of time there between the Grand Tours." he said.

"And before the Giro d'Italia I got a month off. That's a great thing about the team, they don't insist on me doing a lot of races as well as the big stage races, so I'm happy doing it."

Hansen would like to equal Lejaretta's record next year.

"I already know I'm doing the Giro d'Italia in 2014, I hope I'll get a place in the the Tour de France as well, and I love the Vuelta," he said.

"The order of the races, given the Vuelta's more low pressure, does help. Other riders I've talked to who've come here for the first time are amazed by how relaxed it is in comparison to the Tour de France, how easy it is to get in a breakaway.

"But we take this race very seriously, our team has had a guy in the break every day and I enjoy it. I just hope that the day the breakaway goes, that it'll stick - a stage win here is what I'd really like. That, and getting to Madrid."

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