Adam Hansen is sitting in his back yard, out in the hills of the eastern Czech Republic. We’re speaking via Skype and occasionally the conversation is overwhelmed by the sound of birdsong. It sounds idyllic.
No wonder then that Hansen is ready to skip a Grand Tour for the first time since 2011 to stay at home. Nope, the Australian – who’s ridden 20 Grand Tours on the trot – will not be starting the Tour de France in the Vendée this weekend.
“It feels like I’ve missed out on so many summers,” he says. “Normally at this point it’s all stress mode and training ahead of the Tour but I’m really enjoying this downtime.
“It’s been two or three weeks since I last raced, and my next race is now four weeks away. I just wanted to freshen up a little, and have a different programme.”
It’s not all sitting around with his feet up, though.
He’s been out on his bike earlier in the day – a jaunt around the local trails and tracks on his hardtail mountain bike. When the Tour starts, he’ll do four days of hard graft sitting around watching it and providing punditry for Eurosport.
And then this. A call. Questions about cycling. Specifically Grand Tours. The very thing he’s trying to take a break from…
You’re not riding the Tour this year – what will you miss most about it?
When you’re there, it’s very nice. You’re in the spotlight. When you have success it’s great and I’m sure the team will be successful with Andre Greipel. So I will miss not being part of that. You’ve got everyone watching which has its good and bad points. It’s great that all your friends back home in Australia will always watch the Tour and see you ride. But the racing is tough, and in some sense, you don’t want to be there. It’s full-on, and stressful with the crashes and pressure to get a result.
What do you miss most about normal life when you are riding a Grand Tour?
I think the number one thing riders miss is their own food –a home cooked meal— and their own space. I’m not a person that sits on the couch and is lazy, but I do just that every time I come home from a Grand Tour and for two or three minutes it just feels so nice to be home.
That’s what you allow yourself after a Grand Tour? Two minutes on the couch?
I’m bored after five minutes! But I have a bit of a strange diet. When you go to Grand Tours, you’re really force-fed the food that’s decided by the hotel or team chef. This is really nit-picking, but after four weeks of that, it’s so nice to come home and have your favourite meals. And have some free time and catch up with friends. It’s nice to just put different clothes on. Walk your dog. After four weeks of doing the same routine, that’s what you want to do.
What might you cook yourself?
I’m lactose intolerant. This cuts out a lot of the stuff I can have on a race. Most desserts have dairy in so I just go four weeks without a single dessert. I love raw cakes so I might come home and have one of those. And I’m on a plant-based diet, so I get the side dishes at the races, not the main courses. So I’ll do different roast veggies, chia seeds, just more healthy food.
You’re essentially vegan?
Well, yeah, I suppose. I don’t have any dairy, meat, eggs. It’s nice that this type of diet helps animals too, but it’s more for health reasons.
How much of the Tour de France will you watch?
I’m working with Eurosport for the first few days so I’ll be watching then. Afterwards, I’ll probably watch the highlights, but otherwise I’ll switch off from it and do my own thing.
What, like a half hour show in the evening?
Well, I was thinking more like a five to ten-minute snippet online. I don’t have a TV.
How do you feel watching your colleagues race?
I suppose the main reason I look at the highlights is to see how my team mates and friends go. So when I do see the results and the highlights, one side of me feels that I’d like to be there but I have to convince myself that it’s best I’m not. I’ve done so many Grand Tours and I do need a break. On the other hand, when I’m working with Eurosport on the first stage: it’s all on the coast and it does not look nice at all. What’s worse is that everyone’s got a chance to take yellow. If there’s a bit of breeze, every sports director is going to be in their riders’ ear.
The UCI have announced there’s going to be a fourth Grand Tour (they haven’t really, this is a hypothetical scenario) and you’re in charge. Where are you going to take it?
You know, I think there should be a Tour of Eastern Europe. America and Australia are too spread-out but, from a spectators and scenery point of view, this side of Europe would be good. There’s so much history, the culture’s a bit different, you could cover several small countries and there are mountains – the high Tatra go up to 2,500m.
And what would you do differently from other Grand Tours?
I’ve always thought: why not make a Grand Tour suited for someone who’s not a time triallist or climber to win. I mean there’s three Grand Tours a year and all of them pretty much suit the same profile of rider. Sure some are based on more climbing, or more time trialling, and they’ll chuck in the odd Roubaix stage. But why not make it so a sprinter could win one year?
Could Adam Hansen ride four Grand Tours in a year? Would he?
Oh yeah. I think I definitely could if they were spaced nicely.
In that case, where would it go on the calendar?
It would have to be in February. And if we were going to do that, then it would have to be somewhere in Asia or South Africa. There’s a bit of a break in the calendar then. I think you’d get quite a strong turnout. A lot of guys would use it as training for the Classics. And if its set relatively easy, a lot of guys would do that.
It’s all coming together. Moving on: what’s the best book you’ve ever read on a Grand Tour?
Proteinaholic. It’s about overconsumption of protein. At the moment, though, I’m reading the Bible. I’m really not religious but I’ve found so many Christians haven’t read it – and also my partner’s family are religious – so I thought I’d tackle it.
Most memorable meal on a Grand Tour?
On a rest day at the Giro, there was a supermarket across the road from our hotel selling soya ice cream. They had drumsticks in boxes of three. So I had to buy three of them.
And what’s the worst hotel you’ve stayed at?
Well the worst hotel, I never actually stayed at. That’s because in the Vuelta one year we were meant to stay at this one hotel and the soigneur went there and unloaded all the suitcases. Then he had a couple of hours free, so he took a nap. But there were bed mites and he was just covered in bites. So they checked all the other rooms where they could also see the mites, and the team refused to stay there. Generally we’re not too fussy. So long as a room is big enough to open two suitcases and not have to move the beds around, we tend to be happy.
Any predictions for this year’s Tour?
I think Nibali’s going to put a show on. I think Movistar is going to make the race super-exciting with three leaders to attack it. And I think Froome might win.
Every stage of the Tour de France is live on Eurosport. Watch every minute of the race live and uninterrupted on Eurosport Player via eurosportplayer.com