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Ryder Hesjedal (Garmin-Cervelo)
Canadian rides in support of Dave Zabriskie
Ryder Hesjedal has taken a support role for Garmin-Cervelo's overall contender Dave Zabriskie, at the Amgen Tour of California. However, he is not ruling out a stage win for himself on the stage four atop Sierra Road on Wednesday.
"We are going to take care of Zabriskie as best as possible this week because he is the one guy that we are focused on before the decisive days," Hesjedal told Cyclingnews. "I want to try to be good and support the team as best I can. If that means me trying to do it on Sierra Road, or someone else doing it, we will see."
There is no denying that Zabriskie is the team's overall classification rider, having place second to overall winner Michael Rogers in 2010 and second to three-time winner Levi Leipheimer in the 2009 edition.
However, Zabriskie lost 15 seconds due to time gaps in the stage two sprint to other overall contenders Levi Leipheimer and Chris Horner (RadioShack) and Linus Gerdemann (Leopard Trek).
Also capable of winning the overall title is Christian Vande Velde, who placed third overall in 2008. Hesjedal is one of several support climbers on the team including, Tom Danielson, Andrew Talansky and Dan Martin, all capable of winning the race to the top of Sierra Road.
"Our team has a lot of options for the GC and guys that can climb, so we will have to hope that someone has a really good day on Sierra Road," Hesjedal said. "We will feel that out as we go."
Sierra Road is the first of two mountaintop finishes incorporated into the Amgen Tour of California. The 131.6km stage three route will begin in Livermore and include a pass over Mt. Hamilton, a 6.8 km ascent of 8.4 percent gradient. The race will conclude on the gruelling Sierra Road climb on a 9.4 percent gradient for over the 5.6 km to the finish line.
"Sierra Road will be a good indicator to start and then more so during the time trial," Hesjedal said. "It is a very hard climb but maybe not so hard that there are big gaps in time. It is a chance to see if some riders really stand a lot taller than the others. I think that climb will be a selection that will show who is strong and we will have to wait to the later stages to see about the GC."
Hesjedal put forth some good performances at the Vuelta Ciclista Al Pais Vasco, placing top 10 in stages one, two and four. He also placed fourth at the Gran Premio Miguel Indurain and 10th in stage three at Volta ao Algarve. However, he expressed disappointment regarding the spring Classics.
"I was a little disappointed," Hesjedal said. "Obviously, when you are second in a race like Amstel Gold Race and right around the top ten for two years in a row in Liege-Bastogne-Liege, so that is the way it goes."
"I was very happy with my form in Pais Vasco and it was better than last year and I felt good through that part of the year," he added. "All you can do is try and prepare well. But, I had a little bit of bad luck and not a good day. Running 29th and more than a minute back was not a good ride at Liege for me. That's bike racing and on those big days things have to go right and there is not a lot of room for sub-par."