Ryder Hesjedal (Cannondale-Garmin) went on the attack again at the Giro d'Italia on Wednesday but yet again his courage and aggression was rewarded with little compared to his huge effort in the hills near Imola.
Hesjedal lost more than five minutes during stage 4 to La Spezia, when his young teammate Davide Formolo won the stage, and lost further seconds in Abetone and Campitello Matese, yet he has refused to give up the fight and sit in the peloton licking his wounds.
He got in the key break of the day on the stage to San Giorgio Del Sannio on Sunday, only to see Paolo Tiralongo (Astana) take the glory. However he was not discouraged and fought to get across to the attack that formed after 30km of the 153km stage in the Emilia Romagna hills that made stage 11 as tough as a mini Liege-Bastogne-Liege.
The move stayed away after BMC gave up the chase but in the finale Hesjedal opted not to chase Ilnur Zakarin (Katusha) and finished 53 seconds down on the Russian. He gained just nine seconds on the overall contenders but remains 21st overall, 5:47 behind Alberto Contador (Tinkoff-Saxo).
Despite being left with little for his effort, Hesjedal was proud of his day out front, in the thick of the action.
"That's bike racing. It was a complicated stage today but my legs felt good, so I wanted to try something, to go for the stage win, to make some time, to do both. I ended up with neither but that’s bike racing too," Hesjedal told Cyclingnews as he warmed down on the rollers in the shadow of the Cannondale-Garmin team bus parked in the paddock of the motor racing circuit.
"I'm having fun racing like this. There's not much to lose and so I can give it a try to gain time and go for the stage. Going for GC in races gets boring and so I'm enjoy getting out there and racing, like I did last year at the Vuelta, where I won a stage and finished second on another.”"
"Who knows what is going happen between now and Milan"
Hesjedal won the 2012 Giro d'Italia by aggressively fighting for every second and making up time on his rivals whenever possible. He took the pink jersey from Joaquim Rodriguez in the final time trial to Milan and has no intention of throwing in the towel with 10 stages, including the big time trial and the mountain stages, still to race. His chances of overall victory maybe be slim but the crashes, attacks and time penalties of the opening 10 stages show that it is impossible to predict what happens during the Giro d'Italia.
"Some people think that everything is determined but there's 10 more days of racing, who knows what is going happen between now and Milan. I've been saying that from the beginning of the race and racing accordingly," Hesjedal said.
The GC and going for stages kind of go together. Anything can happen at the Giro. But you can't win unless you’re up there and giving it a try.
Hesjedal tried to race smart on the hilly circuits around Imola. He was heavily marked by the other riders in the attack and so tried to turn the tables on them when Zakarin attacked.
"If I'd responded when he attacked, I'm sure everyone would have come up to me. So I didn't move, we stayed together and the win went away," he explained.
"I take it as a sign of respect for my ability that people go after me but it was frustrating because the win was going up the road and nobody chased Zakarin. I was hoping the strength of the group was committed to go for the win but it didn't work out. It's easy to say that I should have gone with Zakarin but it wouldn't have been like that."
Hesjedal warmed down on his spare time trial bike. Saturday's 59.4km time trial is starting to loom on the horizon, just across the Po River plains. Hesjedal opted to try his hand on the stage to Imola so he can perhaps rest up and produce a good time trial.
"Doing big days like this is not the best when you're going up against the other guys focused on GC. But who knows? I'll go up there, give it a go and see how I shakes out. That's my way of racing."