From the long hikes in the snow during the off-season, the development and manufacture of his Kevlar shoes, to the creation of a software application to assist in the huge logistics challenges that come with keeping a pro cycling team operational, the likeable Australian has always been his own man.
It’s never been about setting records. The fact that we journalists wanted to talk about his feats met with some bemusement and always good humour.
Hansen enjoys the style of racing over three weeks, the freedom it gives him and subsequently resulted in his two grand tour stage victories. But just maybe, when it seemed his streak would end at 18, the magnitude of the achievement truly resonated with the 36-year-old.
“…after reading what you all have been saying it really shows that in cycling it’s more than about who is first across the line,” Hansen said on Twitter after he learned that he would ride the Vuelta a España after all.
Spend a bit of time talking with Hansen – he likes talking about things other than cycling – and considering his activities away from three-week-long bike races, it’s abundantly clear that this is a man who likes to test things out, to see what he can do.
My colleague Phil Gomes is correct when he says Hansen hasn’t got anything left to prove. But that does not mean he should walk away.
The unknown scares people. And it’s done so since the dawn of time. As humans, we project our own beliefs on limitations on others because we all have very different perceptions of what constitutes a risk and therefore, the realms of possibility.
In the cycling world, we need not look too far for those who have chosen to push beyond expectations. Keagan Girdlestone’s inspirational return to the bike has flown in the face of medical experts.
Humans evolved to be able to run. Our survival depended on it. No longer is a four-minute mile a seemingly insurmountable barrier. A 100-metre sprint can be run in less than 10 seconds, and a marathon will likely be run in under two hours in the not too distant future.
Spaniard Killian Jornet had nothing left to prove after he summited the north face of Everest this climbing season without supplemental oxygen in a mind-blowing 26 hours. And yet, he achieved a second ascent from Advanced Base Camp in 17 hours. All because Jornet wanted “to make the most of it.”
Hansen’s seasons have become carefully measured performances, with minimal racing around the Giro, Tour and Vuelta. If he didn’t think he was up to the task, his integrity wouldn’t allow another ride for the sake of riding – and as fans, we owe a trust in him, just as his team does.
The same goes for the medical experts who are part of Lotto-Soudal. They have a duty of care to ensure Hansen is not putting himself in danger.
Many factors have allowed Hansen to get this far – genetics, conditioning and the power of determination and curiosity.
At the end of the day, if we are not willing to go in search of new possibilities, we might as well give up now.