Ryder Hesjedal (Cannondale-Garmin) went close to victory yet again at the Giro d’Italia, finishing 28 second behind Fabio Aru (Astana) yet a wave to the crowds and a smile as he crossed the line showed he was satisfied with his race after an impressive performance on the dirt road of the Colle delle Finestre.
Hesjedal’s series of accelerations caused chaos in the final part of the dirt road climb and one of his best surges even put Alberto Contador (Tinkoff-Saxo) on the ropes. It also distanced his rivals in the overall classification and allowed him to move up to fifth overall, 9:52 behind Contador.
“You always want to win but your sensations are still pretty good when you come across the line like that and you known you’ve given it everything,” Hesjedal said before heading to the Cannondale-Garmin team bus perhaps for a celebratory beer with his teammates on the ride to their hotel in Turin.
“I’m happy with my Giro. I had fun. It’s a brutal race. To have won it a few years ago, taken a top 10 last year despite setbacks and then a top five this year… I’ve had a good time.”
As a former mountain biker and adventurer back home on the dirt roads of Victoria, Hesjedal was in his element on the Colle delle Finestre.
“I loved it out there on the dirt road. I ride on that stuff all the time and grew up riding on roads like that. I was having a great time out there,” he said.
“I wasn’t looking to win the race by attacking on the Finestre but I knew that’s where I needed to make the race for myself. I was still looking of moving the classification and so it was a kind of double project: try to win the stage but also do what I needed do. I needed to push the race. In the end it was tough to win but second is okay on a day like today.”
Hesjedal admitted he made a mistake by trying to follow Aru on the climb to the finish in Cervinia. This time he tried to pace his pursuit but the young Italian was determined to win in the ski resort where he spends much of his time training.
“He’s strong man, and has that kick at the end that I can’t follow and he creates a bit of distance,” Hesjedal said. “I had Uran on with me a little but but we couldn’t do anything about it.”
Hesjedal also showed admiration for Contador.
“It’s fun if you can hurt the pink jersey…. But he’s been doing a different race,” Hesjedal pointed out. “He’s been in the jersey for so long and so he knew what he was doing. He only had to keep things under control and check. Congrats to him, he’s a great rider.”
A springboard to a great Tour de France
Hesjedal has been on the road since mid-April, riding the Giro del Trentino and then the Tour de Romandie before travelling directly to Italy. The Giro d’Italia has been tough and testing but he is still keen to ride the Tour de France in five weeks time. He is hopeful the Giro d’Italia can act as a springboard and give him great form for July.
Last year he opted to skip the Tour and focus on the Vuelta. This year he is more determined to ride the Tour, even if he faces competition for a leadership role from teammates Andrew Talansky and Dan Martin.
“I feel good and think I can keep doing this. We’ll see what happens when I freshen up and take a break,” Hesjedal said.
“We always want to try and get to that place where I won the Giro [in 2012] and had better form when I started the Tour. Twenty-thirteen didn’t work out, it just didn’t come together and I never got enough racing and got sick. Last year I chose not to do the Tour. I gave so much at the Giro and wanted to try the Vuelta and do the second part of the season.
“This year I’ve always had it in my mind to do that again [ride the Giro and Tour] but you don’t know 'til you go through this race. But the way I’ve got through it now, I’d definitely like to see if it can happen.”