The Garmin-Sharp rider had a difficult day on the long climb into the clouds, was forced to change bikes mid-climb and slipped from seventh to ninth, losing any chance of a top five finish.
Hesjedal eventually tried to shake off his anger and disappointment on the turbo trainer set up just past the finish line but pedalling only seemed to remove the pain and lactic acid in his legs and not his emotions.
"I suppose it's not the best course for a big guy like me. Then I had the mechanical and so I had to change bikes," he told Cyclingnews.
"It's hard to go up against the pure climbers but I think I've done well to hold my own against them today and in the Giro."
While most of the overall contenders opted to start on a time trial bike and then change to a light-weight road bike after 10km, Hesjedal started on his road bike and used bar extensions to tuck as low as possible in an aero position on the early flat roads out of Bassano del Grappa.
Teams said using a time trial bike gave a 20-second time gain but Hesjedal opted for comfort.
"Unfortunately, I had to do bike change anyways," he said laconically.
"I don't know how much that cost me in time but it affected my rhythm. Everyone makes their own choices when it comes to equipment. I didn’t want to change, I wanted to be comfortable and not worry about changing the bike. The effort lasted an hour and so it's about your legs, not really the bike."
Despite suffering on the 18km of the climb, Hesjedal was still able to savour the moment as the huge crowds that cheered him up to the finish.
"It was amazing out there with so many fans along the route and this is a pretty amazing climb and place. I'm happy with my Giro for sure," he said.
Hesjedal is now ninth overall, 10:11 minutes down on Nairo Quintana (Movistar). Cadel Evans (BMC) and Wilco Kelderman (Belkin) are within reach at 46 and 42 seconds respectively, with their battle for seventh, eight and ninth to be decided on the slopes of Monte Zoncolan on Saturday, before Sunday's parade stage to Trieste.
"It's another race day, after three hard weeks. You never know, if you're off, it can go really wrong," Hesjedal said, finding some hope and inspiration for the last, decisive mountain stage in this year's Giro d'Italia.
"We'll see, anything can happen. That's been the trend in this Giro and so it's not over by any means."