THE nature of the Tour de France means riders can occasionally take a back seat, depending on the terrain.
But Australian Adam Hansen is too useful for his own good. Not only has he worked for Lotto-Belisol sprinter Andre Greipel on the flat stages, he also will have to support team leader Jurgen van den Broeck from tomorrow when the Tour starts featuring more serious climbs.
Hansen, who won the 2008 Australian time trial championship and is on his third Tour, admits it is a heavy workload. ''I'm here for a mixed role, with Andre and van den Broeck,'' he said.
''They want me to do the start of the mountains, maybe go over the first mountain passes in the first group and then do what I can between the mountain climbs with van den Broeck. With Andre, it's the lead-outs. It's daunting.''
But it also became rewarding on Wednesday when he helped set up Greipel for the stage win. Hansen helped drive the pace at the start of their lead-out, several kilometres from the finish.
''Adam is a real team player, so he did a lot of work for Jurgen and … put the guys in the good position [for the sprint],'' said team manager Mark Sergeant.
Greipel will have one last chance to score another stage win today before the Tour starts hitting bigger climbs. Stage six from Epernay to Metz only features one categorised climb and is tailor-made for sprinters.
Speaking after Greipel's win in stage four, Sergeant said the team had remained patient after Sky sprint ace Mark Cavendish pipped the German in stage two.
Cavendish was caught in a pile-up less than three kilometres from the finish, ruining his chances. Everyone was asking me the same question, 'What are you going to change?', because Cavendish is hard to beat,'' Sergeant said. ''I said, 'Nothing, because I have confidence in this team and this train'.
''You can see, obviously, that if you want to stay in the wheel of Greipel, you need to take some risks, and you can crash. He was already very strong before the Tour. We built it up … with just one goal - to be good here and take as many victories as possible.