Much though we admire the stars of the peloton, we also love the riders who put in the hard kilometres to put them in a position to weave their magic, chasing down breaks or setting tempo in the mountains before peeling off, exhausted, only to do it all again day after day. They are the unsung heroes who are commonly referred to as having ‘big engines’, and for every Jens Voigt there are a dozen others such as Orica-GreenEDGE’s Svein Tuft, often seen but rarely noticed and never on the podium.
Well, almost never. What’s that saying about every dog having its day?
Yesterday, on stage seven of the Giro, the dog had a rare sight of a bone and set off after it with the power of a thoroughbred greyhound. On a day whose profile was the dictionary definition of ‘saw-toothed’ and made more treacherous by heavy rain which saw many riders sliding off their bikes, Lotto-Belisol domestique Adam Hansen threw caution to the
rain wind, attacked solo and took victory by over a minute.
As the Queenslander himself might say: Good on yer, mate!
Hansen, in his seventh year as a pro, has had the privilege of leading out the two most successful sprinters of his generation: Mark Cavendish and Andre Greipel, having started out alongside both with HTC-Highroad before moving with Greipel to what is now Lotto-Belisol in 2011.
He doesn’t win many races. Yesterday was his first win in nearly three years and only his second in a stage race. But Hansen measures his success in terms of the number of kilometres he covers and the number of victories he sets up for teammates such as Greipel, Jurgen Roelandts, Kenny Dehaes and Jurgen van den Broeck – which is to say rather a lot.
As fans, we love his unselfishness and the fact he is one of cycling’s true hard-men. Hansen was the only man to finish all three grand tours in 2012 (and only the 32nd ever to do this in a single year). That’s a distance approaching 10.000km – or, to put it into context, a quarter of the way around the Equator. He also once finished a stage of the Tour de France (2010, stage one) after an early crash in which he suffered multiple fractures. This is not a man who wants to settle for an easy life!
He’s also one half of cycling’s best Twitter comedy duo. Along with teammate and frequent roommate Greg Henderson, Hansen regularly delights his thousands of followers with little insights into the day-to-day life of a pro cyclist: the pain, the camaraderie, the practical jokes. Henderson was one of the first to congratulate his friend after yesterday’s win:
Most popular victory in the pro peloton. Congrats bro @hansenadam. Really really happy for you.
— Greg Henderson (@Greghenderson1) May 10, 2013
And the man himself was clearly enjoying his moment in the
Hey @vicentereynes don’t wake me up! I’m having a pretty cool dream….
— Adam Hansen (@HansenAdam) May 10, 2013
Adam Hansen is 32 today, having given himself an early birthday present. (Although technically it was already his birthday in his native Queensland.) He’ll be treating himself today by riding a punishing individual time trial. If you see him, give him a pat on the back for me, will you? No one deserves it more.