Ryder Hesjedal has hinted that the 2016 Giro d'Italia could be his final Grand Tour as he considers that his one-year contract with Trek-Segafredo will expire in December. The 2012 champion of the maglia rosa will take to the starting ramp for the opening time trial in Apeldoorn on Friday with a long-term goal of securing top place in the final standings come its conclusion in Torino on May 29.
"If you really look at it, it could be my last Grand Tour," Hesjedal told The Canadian Press in Geneva.
Hesjedal considered retirement in 2015 after his contract with Jonathan Vaughters' Cannondale-Garmin squad was not renewed. He landed a deal with Trek-Segafredo to keep him in the sport for another year, but as is the case with one-year contracts, his future in professional bike racing is somewhat insecure.
Hesjedal is the only Canadian to win a Grand Tour, securing the overall title at the Giro d'Italia in Milan in 2012. He had a strong fifth-place finish at the Giro last year, and took back-to-back second places in the mountains; stage 19 in Cervinia and stage 20 in Sestriere. He also raced the Tour de France where he was third in stage 20 on l'Alpe d'Huez.
This year, Hesjedal will aim for stage wins and a top place in the overall classification. Last year, he told Cyclingnews that Trek-Segafredo brought him on board largely for his potential to bring the team a top place at the Giro d'Italia this year, and that that was his main focus for 2016. He initially eyed also racing the Tour de France in July and perhaps the Olympic Games in August, but those start positions are far from being solidified.
Trek-Segafredo director Adriano Baffi said that at the Giro d'Italia the team will first look to Fabian Cancellara in the opening time trial and then Giacomo Nizzolo in the early sprint stages.
"We are coming to the Giro with big goals, but goals that we believe we have a very good chance of achieving. Our early target is to go for a stage victory with Fabian and Giacomo. Giacomo deserves a victory, he has been second enough times, and Fabian will try and win the first-stage prologue and the dream to take home his first ever maglia rosa.
"We have opportunities in the Stage 9 time trial with Fabian and also Jack (Bobridge), the numerous sprint stages, and will fight to win the points jersey again. Of course, Ryder is aiming for the overall, and we strongly believe he can attain a top five and perhaps the podium if all goes well. We have a very strong team assembled and it will be a very exciting three weeks for us."