Aussie rider Adam Hansen today stated in the press that it is a possibility he will ride all three Grand Tours in 2013, just as he did in 2012. A three week long Grand Tour is probably the most physically demanding event in any sport, anywhere on the planet - many riders never even manage to complete one, two is a feat in itself but to complete three in one year is something reserved only for the true hardmen...
2012 saw Hansen join an elite group of riders to have completed all three Grand Tours in any single year, in fact Hansen became only the 32nd rider to ever do so. Only 4 riders have completed all three in a single year more than once, with Marino Lejarreta managing it an astonishing 4 times, if Hansen does manage all three in 2013 he will become the 5th person to do it more than once and will cement his place as a true hardman.
Riders often talk of the difficulties of riding a Grand Tour, especially for the first time with many finding it a real struggle just to finish, let alone stay with the pace and finish within the top half of riders. It takes a lot of training and planning for a rider to be ready for a Grand Tour - the experience is a whole different ball game to having the ability to race over a certain distance in a single day race. All riders react differently to the stress on the body of a Grand Tour, some will struggle and be completely broken and exhausted by the end, others can feel stronger in the final week as their body becomes attuned to the constant effort and physical requirements needed to compete. Ultimately riding one Grand Tour is the dream of every pro - only the cream of the crop get the chance to do it, but riding three in a single year is something many wouldn't even consider because of the effort needed.
Completing more than one Grand Tour is a matter of Circumstance also - team leaders are highly unlikely to complete all three in one year because although its possible to do so, being competitive in all three is a completely different story. Today for team leaders it usually comes down to a choice from two options: Ride the Tour de France, or ride the Giro d'Italia or the Vuelta a Espana at opposite ends of the year, this way they can remain competitive. The realm of three Grand Tours is usually the realm of the 'Domestique' - indeed Hansen completed all three Grand Tours last year but his placings were insignificant, Placing 94th in the Giro and 81st in the Tour de France before taking on the Vuelta and finishing 123rd. He was only there to provide support for the designated Team Leader of each race but this in itself is what makes the Domestique a hardman in his own right - their job is to ride hard for their leaders both on the flat and in the mountains to keep the leader as fresh and out of trouble as possible, they put their body on the line and suffer purely to serve somebody else and they must do this all year long whenever required. A constant turning of the pedals, that's the life of a domestique and its a hard life though Loyalty is often rewarded well in terms of finance.
Hansen has been told that his 2013 season is likely to follow much the same path as 2012 - though he says he will consider his options after the Tour de France as to whether he will ride the Vuelta again. Hat's off to him though - he certainly doesn't have anything left to prove to anybody. His 2012 feat was made all the more impressive following crashes in both the Giro and the Vuelta. In the Giro he rode until the end with a broken sternum, having not realised how bad the damage was. His crash in the Vuelta left him with a badly bruised hip - many riders have stepped down from the bike for far less but domestiques and rouleurs have some inbuilt, innate 'never give in' mindset. Will Adam Hansen finish all three in 2013? Probably. Is he hard as nails? Definitely.