Ryder Hesjedal (Garmin – Transitions) backed up a strong first week in the Tour de France with another solid performance on stage 7 to Station Des Rouses. The Canadian finished 7th on the stage and moved up to 3rd in GC.
“It was good today. It was hard with the heat and those climbs but I felt good. It would have been nice to have gone with Chavanel but I don’t know if the bunch would have let me go. I guess we’ll never know,” he told Cyclingnews at the finish.
Hesjedal came into the race on the back of a fine start to the season. He was consistently active in the Classics, finished second in Amstel, and won the final stage of the Amgen Tour of California in May. However his role for the Tour was to help Christian Vande Velde in the mountains.
After the American abandoned through injury, Hesjedal became their best bet as a GC contender, despite admitting to Cyclingnews that his only experience of competing for the overall in a three week Tour came in the 2006 Vuelta.
“I didn’t come to this race thinking I was in a GC fight but that’s the way things have worked out. It’s important for the team and we’re going to fight for it now,”
“It’s not like I’ve not ridden GC in a bike race before it’s just that this is the Tour de France and there were circumstances with Christian. We’ll see what happens and where it goes. We still have a big focus for the sprints and we’re looking for a stage there but the team are supporting me,” he told Cyclingnews.
Right now though the lanky Canadian is happy to sneak under the radar of guys like Alberto Contador, Lance Armstrong and Andy Schleck, despite the growing media attention that appear to follow him after each stage finish.
“This early on, guys will look at the GC and think, oh this rider probably won't be there in the next stages but I’m just focussing on each stage and we’ll see where things are tomorrow. “
“Today was hard but there will be a lot more damage tomorrow. I did ride the GC in the vuelta in '06 and was fighting for every second on every mountain top and was 14th after two weeks but that’s the only experience I have at doing this over three weeks but I’m excited.”
As for today’s stage to Morzine, Hesjedal is far more aware of how the final climb will determine his true capabilities as a GC contender. “If everyone starts throwing around their best stuff I have to be realistic and see who is around and maybe right my own race but maybe there is room to try something too.”