Ryder Hesjedal (Garmin-Transitions) slumped over his bike after crossing the line in Pauillac, with sweat dripping off his face. He did not initially know it but his strong ride in the final time trial had lifted him up to seventh in the overall classification.
He started the Tour de France as a key domestique for Christian Vande Velde but when he crashed out, Hesjedal took his place and fought for three weeks to secure a top ten finish.
"Anything in the top ten here is a dream come true, especially after what happened in this race for us," Hesjedal said.
"That morning when Christian didn't start, the guys were hurt. It's bad when you feel bad because you didn’t crash with your teammates and so I just wanted to go on the attack and race good. Ever since stage three, I wanted to stay high up in the race and show myself and show the team well. That's what I continued to do today."
Seven is a nice number
Hesjedal finished 52nd in the time trial, 6:40 behind winner Fabian Cancellara but he was 3:37 faster than Joaquin Rodriguez (Katusha). The strong head wind in the final part of the time trial course blew the little Spaniard all over the road and so Hesjedal moved past him into seventh place.
"Seven is a nice number, I'll take it," Hesjedal said with a smile. "That was a really hard time trial. I didn't feel good at all. I suffered through the whole thing and that's a long time to be out there when you're not feeling good. It doesn't get much harder than that at the end of a Grand Tour."
"With the wind, it's difficult to judge you've speed and you feel like you're going nowhere. You've just got to concentrate and suffer." The Garmin-Transitions team staff all wore special Maple leaf t-shirts with 'O Hesjedal' blazoned across the chest to celebrate Hesjedal's impressive performance during the Tour de France.
There will be even more celebrations in Paris on Sunday afternoon. "It's going to be unreal. I just can't wait to get on those cobbles on the Champs and get it done," Hesjedal said.
"My Tour de France has been phenomenal. If anyone had said I'd be riding into Paris in the top ten, I would have said:' that's a nice idea' but now it's reality."