Thursday, May 30, 2013

Adam Hansen: an insight

This is an extract from the book The Cycling Professor, by Marco Pinotti


Adam Hansen

Behind every rider there is always a story, interesting in its own right, which is usually left unsaid and often remains unknown. Adam Hansen, my Australian teammate for four years at team HighRoad, perhaps will be remembered by more attentive fans for being the first to withdraw from the 2007 Giro, (broken hand), and the protagonist of a long breakaway in the stage with arrival at Tivoli in 2008. During the racing season, Adam lives in a remote village in the Czech Republic, so that each time there are races he is always the one that takes the longest to arrive, and gets home at least twenty four hours after everyone else, always having to transit in more than one airport. In his early professional years he rode for small Austrian teams but he is most famous for having won twice, in 2004 and 2005, a gruelling race in Australia, the Crocodile Trophy: two weeks which a few dozen athletes on mountain bikes face routes of six to seven hours each in muddy and dirty roads. A race where “it’s so tough, sometimes someone dies”, as Adam told me, even though I’m not sure how serious he was. Chosen by T-Mobile talent-scouts in the post Ullrich era for his outstanding numbers in laboratory tests, over the years he has learned to be a good road cyclist by listening and asking questions that are so simple to answer, but are vital in a learning curve. Equipped with a body and endurance capabilities that are certainly not common, in 2007 he rode and finished the Vuelta, while the next year he finished the Giro-Tour double, thus completing a prestigious continuous trio of Grand Tours. In 2012 he repeated the feat in the same season. He is regarded with high esteem by teammates for his generosity and for his inclination to face difficulties without complaining. Maybe he is the emblem of the domestique who is stronger than the captain, and only those at his wheel realise how much power he has while he does his job. In 2008 he won the time trial at the Australian championships, then at the Tour of California he was Cavendish’s right hand man. In April 2008, in a Dutch race called Hel van Het Mergelland, (Hel as in “Hell”), which was hit by bad and cold weather, he was in a break right from the beginning with my colleague Tony Martin, finishing second. The curious thing is that the previous week, without having his bike because of transfer problems, he had trained by running and hiking in the mountains, a thing which I could not believe until Adam confirmed it to me to be a fairly normal routine in his exercise regime anyway. This is an uncommon approach to the sport, I have witnessed him doing in the course of a training camp in Majorca. More than once I had noticed his absence at breakfast and at the gym for the pre-ride exercise. He used to pop up on time at the moment to go out in a group, and then disappear again when it was time to go back. Asking him what he was doing, I found out that he was training for eight hours. Basically he used to go out on the bike early in the morning without eating breakfast, and started to eat when he had already burned 1,000 kcal, restoring every hour a quarter of the energy he had expended and calculating everything with precision. At the end, he would dine abundantly, while still not managing to restore all he lost during the day, about 6,000 kcal. According to his “theory", as he called it while smiling, these workouts would help him improve his lipid metabolism to conserve as much as possible the muscle glycogen that is used at key stages of the race. I can also say that half the time he spent on the bike was in group rides, which were certainly not at an easy pace. This is undoubtedly a very stressful way to exercise. Beyond the potential benefits of this strategy, I was struck by his great calm and serenity in undertaking this regime, regardless of the opinions of others and while fully focusing on his goal. I was sharing a room with him at the Tour of Oman in 2010 and I found confirmation of what I had heard: he sleeps very little. Every night I was always asleep before eleven, while he lay awake working at the computer until well after midnight. They say that he maintains this habit even during a grand tour. This can only make me reach two conclusions: first, that he is a great talent and, second, that there are always exceptions to rules of a regulated life, or rather, that everyone should regulate their own life to their needs. And these are the lessons I have learnt from my mate Adam.

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