Persistence: The Amazing Record of Adam Hansen

We at Proggio are big fans of cycling. Today, we’d like to share with you one of the most interesting and amazing records in cycling, and of sports endurance in general: 20 consecutive grand tours, set by cyclist Adam Hansen. We spoke to Adam the evening before his 20th grand tour, which started in Israel. 

The grand tour is comprised of three races, each race being three weeks long, held across three countries. The three races are the Giro D’Italia (every year in May), the Tour de France (July), and the Vuelta de Espana (September). The race has 21 stages averaging 200 kilometers each, with only 2 rest days. It is complete hell on wheels, built to test the toughest and the strongest professional cyclists out there.

Riding one grand tour is hard enough. Riding all 3 grand tours in one year is an achievement that only a few cyclists ever accomplish. Riding 20 grand tours in a row is above and beyond anything that anyone has ever achieved in the past – but Adam Hansen is about to set such a record.

Actually, Adam broke the record of 17 consecutive grand tours during 2017, and since then he continues to extend his own record – riding 3 grand tours in a row for 7 years!

Given how difficult stage races at cycling’s top level can be, it’s an amazing record and a truly unbelievable achievement.

 

Adam Hansen
Adam, you are about to start your 20th grand tour now. You probably like cycling!

You have to like it. There is no way to do it if you don’t like it. There are bad times and good times. You come to see different people and cultures, this year in Israel, but also in many other places across the world.

You handled a dislocated arm in 2012 and still managed to complete the race, which is amazing. Are there also points of mental difficulty beyond the physical challenges? Where do you find your motivation?

I really enjoy it and this is the most important thing about cycling. The people, the team, the places, the crowd – there is always something happening that keeps you going.

Other than the physical difficulties and the effort, I remember several stages that were particularly hard mentally. The first one was along the Passo dello Stelvio in the Giro D’Italia of 2014, where it was snowing all the way up to the pass and down. The race organizers ended up neutralizing the race to make sure nobody got hurt, but still, it was so hard for the cyclists.

A. Hansen in action

The other one was a big mountain stage in The Vuelta of 2015, where the peloton climbed several of the highest category climbs in Andorra. While the natural climbers are pushing ahead to win the stage, all the other cyclists need to maintain the pace to make sure they are not over the time limit. It was very hard.  

stageWhat was the moment you decided to go for it and break the record?

When I did my 5th or 6th someone told me that such a record exists, and it sounded like a joke. Is it really possible to do it? You can crash out, you can suffer health problems. I continued to break the 10 record and then just went on. I’m trying to stay healthy, and it is not always easy.

Can you tell us a little about your routine? The gap between races in the tour is one month. What do you do with the time off?

I take some time off the bike when the race is finished. During this time I only do short rides, and I’m doing some cross training too. It is important to get some rest before starting to prepare for the next grand tour.

There is a lot of talk about banned materials in cycling, such as the current allegations against Chris Froome (that are still under investigation). Cyclists are saying that cycling today is cleaner. You experienced the past 7-8 years in the pro peloton, did you experience the change over the years?

It used to be faster in the past and by looking at data you can tell that the pace now is slower. There are other changes over the same time, since bikes changed a lot. They are more aerodynamic and there are also changes in the wheels and tires.

Generally, things looks more reasonable these days. If someone is going ahead we know that it is for a limited time, since a rider can’t endure an unreasonable pace for a long time. In the past riders attacked like crazy and it was not reasonable. Today things are more in control.

Adam Hansen with Fans

What are your goals for #20? Is it only completing the race, or something more than that?

At the back of my mind, this is about completing the race. For sure, I will help the team and we have very good riders like Tim Wellens who can take a stage win.

Anyway, this will be my last one, I’m not going to ride the tour. So 20 it is, no more.

In addition to cycling you are writing software and developed your own shoes! This is not very typical for a pro cyclist.

Yes, that’s right. I like writing software and I spent some time writing the team logistical software. In addition, I developed a line of shoes that are lighter and stiffer – which can be a big difference for a professional rider, that can allow them to go several percentages faster.  

You turned pro only at the age of 25, relatively late. Is that one of the keys to your success?

I did other sports until I was 20. It was pretty easy to join a continental team then. I gradually developed my capabilities over the years and improved every year to the point that I achieved enough to go higher. It is true that I may have lost some opportunities other cyclists had at an earlier age.

If you are consistent with your improvement, there is no reason not to get a contract with a pro tour team. There is no reason to give up at an early age since you are not there yet. It may not be the easiest way, but if you continue evolve your capabilities you can get there. The cyclist that are finally made it are not necessarily the strongest, but they have the strongest mentality, and they are being able to sustain the gradual improvement year over year. Otherwise they will withdraw at an earlier stage.

Thank you Adam! Your achievement is inspiring, we wish you all the best while doing your 20th. We look forward to seeing you in Rome at the end of May!

There are many lessons to take from Adam’s story, but one worth focusing on is persistence – despite Adam’s late start in pro cycling, his persistence in improving each day has led him to setting a record of endurance and achievement.

 

Picture credit: RCS Sport @ANSA