By Gregor Brown
Canadian Ryder Hesjedal will lead Garmin-Slipstream's team at Tirreno-Adriatico this week, March 11 to 17. The 28-year-old is on good form prior to his fourth participation in the Italian stage race.
"I am looking to improve my eighth place from last year," said Hesjedal to Cyclingnews. "The team is made up of Classics guys, who are looking to get training and lots of kilometres."
Hesjedal proved his form on Saturday in the Eroica Toscana. He led a serious of attacks in the race marked with gravel roads and steep climbs. He finished tenth behind winner Thomas Lövkvist of Columbia-Highroad.
Garmin will support him to better his result of last year in the Corsa dei Due Mari ('race of the two seas'). It starts with flat sprinters' stages, but ends with two serious mountain tests and a time trial.
"I am used to the pressure. I feel comfortable based on last year's race. I have had this racing block on my mind for some time, plus this year we tagged Milano-Sanremo onto it."
Though often victorious in his mountain bike days, it has been two years since Hesjedal won a race, when he took the Canadian time trial championships. A win might not be far away if you consider that he was vying for Eroica with the likes of Andy Schleck and Daniele Bennati.
"You always want to win. Lövkvist pointed out that Eroica was his first win since 2007 and I don't think Andy Schleck won a race last year [he did take the Tour de France young rider classification - ed.].
"You can focus on winning, but you can beat yourself up doing that. Victories are especially hard to come by since I am not doing many small races these days."
Hesjedal will line up at the Milano-Sanremo one-day Classic four days after Tirreno-Adriatico ends in San Benedetto del Tronto.