Ryder Hesjedal (Garmin-Cervelo) has been crowed the most improved rider of 2010 by Cyclingnews readers. The Canadian won just under a third of the votes (5001), beating Vincenzo Nibali (2611) and Richie Porte (2458) into second and third respectively.
“It’s a great honour to receive something like that from the readers and to be voted for is a really nice compliment,” Hesjedal told Cyclingnews from the Garmin-Cervelo training camp in Calpe, Spain.
Hesjedal finished seventh in the Tour de France but was consistently strong throughout 2010. He was fifth in Strade Bianchi in March, and second in Amstel before winning a stage in the Amgen Tour of California and finishing fifth overall.
However it was his Tour de France performance that stood out. With Garmin-Transitions pre-race hopes obliterated by crashes involving Christian Vande Velde and Tyler Farrar, the American squad were forced to alter their aspirations.
Hesjedal moved himself into GC contention with a plucky ride on the stage to Arenberg and quietly went about consolidating his position through the mountains. Another daring break was made on the stage to Mende but his fourth place on the Tourmalet cemented his final GC position.
He performed in the second half of the season as well, finishing sixth in San Sebastian, fourth in the Grand Prix de Quebec and third in the Grand Prix Montreal.
“It’s down to consistent improvements over the last few years,” he told Cyclingnews.
“It’s about making the little improvements, having that confidence and experience and the opportunities. I’ve just tried to keep that momentum going.”
Hesjedal will have a similar race programme again in 2011, but may open his season in early February with a couple of days of racing on Mallorca, otherwise he'll make his first start in mid-February at Portugal's Volta ao Algarve.
From there the Canadian will contest races such as Paris-Nice, Critérium International, GP Miguel Indurain, Vuelta Ciclista al Pais Vasco, Klasika Primavera de Amorebieta, culminating with the Ardennes Classics.
“So many things have to unfold you can be on much better form or be in much better situations but still not get those placings. The difference between the top ten is pretty small in the one day Classics.
“I have ideas for this season but I’m going to be sticking to what I’m doing and it should come off. I’m hungry for success but I know it’s going to take some improvement and some good luck.”
At the Tour Hesjedal is likely to co-captain Garmin-Cervelo GC aspirations with Vande Velde.
“To have two guys that are capable of top ten in the Tour is going to be a exactly what we’re trying to do. We’ll try and compliment each other and try and get the best possible result for the team. I’ll be co-leader and I’m honoured to be even talked about in that context. It’s a great situation and he’s a great friend and someone that’s helped me get to this point."