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Ryder Hesjedal will be looking to back up his 2010 season with another strong year
Garmin-Cervelo Canadian primed for success in the Ardennes
In 2010, Hesjedal opened his account with a bang via his best-ever result in a one-day Classic: a second place finish in the Amstel Gold Race, two seconds down on race winner Philippe Gilbert. He followed that result with a ninth place finish at Fléche Wallonne and a 12th place performance at Liège-Bastogne-Liège.
Hesjedal made a few tweaks to his spring race calendar this season, choosing Paris-Nice and Critérium International over the previous year's Tirreno-Adriatico and Volta Ciclista a Catalunya, and the adjustment seemed to pay dividends. After a quiet Paris-Nice, the Garmin-Cervélo Canadian earned a seventh place finish at Critérium International followed six days later with a fourth place in the one-day Gran Premio Miguel Indurain.
Hesjedal's final block of racing prior to the trio of Ardennes Classics was the Vuelta Ciclista al Pais Vasco stage race, where he finished a career-best ninth overall.
"Pais Vasco was great, the GP Indurain before that was good and also the Critérium International in that stretch there was really good," Hesjedal told Cyclingnews. "I felt better and performed better in Pais Vasco than last year so I'm hoping to keep that going through the end of next week. Already I feel recovered from Pais Vasco, I feel pretty optimistic for the Ardennes to say the least."
2011 marks the fourth straight year Hesjedal will contest Amstel Gold, Fléche Wallonne and Liège-Bastogne-Liège and with experience comes an invaluable familiarity with the parcours.
"When I raced last year at Amstel Gold I remembered the race [route] perfectly and getting second was a great result. I know the area [for Amstel Gold], I know Fléche and I know Liège.
"We're going up on Friday and we'll have a look at the end of Amstel again, get comfortable, get settled in and we'll be up there for the week."
With Johan Van Summeren taking the biggest-ever win for Garmin-Cervélo last Sunday at Paris-Roubaix, Hesjedal and his teammates hope to continue the squad's success in the Ardennes races.
"It's wonderful, what can you say? I was watching the race on Sunday after doing a hard Pais Vasco and to see the team perform the way they did and come up with a big victory is nothing but energizing and morale-boosting," said Hesjedal.
"I think the whole team's on a high and the guys who came out of Pais Vasco are going to be blending into the Ardennes now on great form. Christian Vande Velde is more motivated than ever for the Ardennes, David Millar is coming into form and he's there to support me to improve on the rides I've done there. The team knows that we're capable and that's where you want to be."