Ryder Hesjedal (Garmin-Sharp) has started stage 11 of the Giro d'Italia, promising to honour his status of 2012 winner, despite the evident physical problems that have seen him struggle since Saturday's time trial.
The Canadian spoke to Cyclingnews and Gazzetta dello Sport before riding to the start of the 182km stage to Vajont. He looked tired and ashen-faced from the suffering on the bike and was naturally disappointed to have lost close to 20 minutes on stage 10 and so any chance of another overall victory at the Giro d'Italia.
"I'm obviously disappointed for yesterday and the stage before that. Clearly something is not right but I'm trying to move through it and see what happens day by day," he said.
"I want to honour the race, honour race number one, my team, the fans and all my supporters. I've had a lot of support as I've gone through the process of preparing for the Giro d'Italia as defending champion."
Hesjedal and the Garmin-Sharp staff still have not managed to identify the reason for the rider's sudden collapse. He apparently went very deep as he fought to limit his losses in the time trial to Saltara and his body no longer seems to produce the power needed in the key moments of the race.
"It's just frustrating when you're not really sure what the problem is. My condition was great, I felt great but all of a sudden after the TT, you could see that in the moments when I needed to go hard, it just wasn't possible," he explained.
"I feel good on the bike and there's no sign of any problems until I have to go full gas. Then the body doesn't respond. If you have bad legs you feel bad all the time, not just in the hardest moments. That's telling me something is not right and my body is not quite functioning.
Today's stage includes the 1790m high Sella Ciampigotto climb after 90km of racing. It is 20km long and so will be a real test of Hesjedal's current condition. If he can make it to the finish in Vajont, he and Garmin-Sharp have two flat stages to recover and rebuild before the stages in the French Alps.