Canadian "riding into the race" in first competition since Giro
You could spot a Tour de France GC contender a mile away at the finish of stage 1 in Seraing, Belgium. They were the ones in control of their breathing when crossing the finish line, the ones who didn't collapse in a heap, and the ones who, like Ryder Hesjedal (Garmin-Sharp), even considered a late attack on the final climb.
Coming into the Tour ,Hesjedal's overall chances have divided opinion. There are those in the press room unmoved by his Giro win, who recount that the last winner of the Giro and Tour double was the late Marco Pantani. They almost scoff at the prospect of the gangly Canadian being mentioned in the same breath as the once great climber. Not even Alberto Contador could do it, they add.
However, there are others who believe that Hesjedal stands a chance. With Alberto Contador and Andy Schleck watching from their sofas at home and Bradley Wiggins and Cadel Evans sharing the majority of the limelight, Hesjedal has kept a lower profile than perhaps he merits.
At the finish in Seraing, where he finished 9th and ahead of both Wiggins and Evans, he refrained from spelling out his GC ambitions but gave warning as to his current form.
"The prologue was good but today was a hard finish there but I was comfortable and near the front. I didn't think there was much point of trying to do anything off the front," he told Cyclingnews.
"If anything I'm riding into the race. I've not raced between now and the Giro but based on how I feel now, if I can get some more days in my legs and we can get further into the race, that will be a nice situation."