Having finished his seventh consecutive Grand Tour and after taking victory in the seventh stage of this year’s Giro, Adam Hansen is now hastily preparing to go around again in 2014.
Hansen spent a fair portion of his childhood growing up in Hong Kong, leading a lifestyle rather at odds with the one he enjoys today. The seeds for a life as a computer programmer were being sown for Hansen who revealed that he was a little ‘chunky’ as a kid.
“In those times I did not know what sport was,” Hansen told CyclingTips.
School days involved taking the subway from his apartment building to school and back without ever gracing the great outdoors.
Looking back, Hansen now believes the paradoxical nature of his past revolves around the central tenants of dedication and getting the job done.
“I think they go well together,” he said of the culture clash between the computers of his adolescence and the bikes of his present. “Whatever you do at an intense level you always need a break or something dynamically different to keep some type of sanity.”
And sanity is what the computer provides for Hansen. Before he ‘made it’ Hansen enjoyed some notoriety on the Weight Weenies forums where he was known as ‘Zakeen’. Although he still visits the site, it’s only in a lurking capacity nowadays.
Hansen’s late teenage years back in Cairns, Australia, opened his eyes to the sporting world that he has since enmeshed himself in.
“I did triathlons from the age of 17,” he said. “I did a very few cycling races before heading to Europe. Just less than a year before heading to Europe I started to focus more on cycling.
“At that stage my cycling was the worst of the three disciplines. The idea was to do a season or two of racing to improve my cycling for my triathlons.”
And despite later making a name for himself on a mountain bike, skinny tyres were always the default choice for Hansen.
“At the same time I started going to Europe I competed in the Croc Trophy. They complemented each other and the Croc Trophy gave me a better name in Europe,” he added.
Crocodile Trophy organiser Gerhard Schönbacher saw talent being wasted in Hansen’s day job as a computer programmer and coaxed the Queenslander into taking the next step. Schönbacher’s Austrian connections saw Hansen spend four years racing with Austrian continental teams from 2003 to 2006. He was then on the path to the ProTour.
In 2005 Hansen was given the opportunity to do some testing with T-Mobile as his local performances had started to be noticed. Doors like this do not open very often, and despite excitement at the opportunity that lay at his feet, Hansen did not honestly think he could simply ‘test’ his way to the top.
“Previously I had done a performance test and was told I better stick to cooking!”, joked Hansen. “So the test was pretty scary at first. However I trained for the test. [I] looked it up and focused my training to do a good result.”
Despite impressing with his results (that unfortunately for the power geeks amongst us, he is not yet willing to divulge!) the ProTour door remained closed to Hansen for two more years, but that did not deter the rider who was taking a liking to his European lifestyle.
In 2006 Hansen first became known to his Australian competitors thanks to a barnstorming ride at the Australian road titles where he was the driving force behind the coup that saw Will Walker claim a stunning upset victory in Mt Torrens.
Hansen told Daily Peloton in 2005 that both his best and worst characteristic on the bike was his inability to bide his time.
“I give it 111%. I just love to race,” he said. “But this is also a bad thing too. I’m smart enough to know that I should wait for final moves, but I love to mix it up and be where the action is when I should be sitting in, resting and waiting. It’s not that I don’t know better, [I] just love to race!”
This aggression and raw power had others at the 2006 national titles scampering to find out exactly who this mystery man in yellow was. Hansen’s attack on the last lap shattered the leading group but it also shattered the anonymity he had previously enjoyed. For Hansen, it was nonetheless enjoyable to demolish those who underestimated him.
“It was nice. To hide a little and have other riders in your break just write you off,” he said. “It’s always nice to prove people wrong.”
Having put out big numbers in the lab in 2005 and on the road in 2006, the natural progression for Hansen was his ProTour berth with T-Mobile in 2007.
“In 2006 I did not think I would ride for T-Mobile during the season,” he explained. “It was not until the end of the season when they contacted me and offered me the contract. T-Mobile changed hands and cleared most of the riders out it and this opened up a lot of new positions. I had a good chance and I fitted the program well.”