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Ryder Hesjedal (Garmin-Sharp) in Milan having secured the Giro d'Italia, the first man from Canada to do so
Giro d'Italia champion first cyclist to be given prestigious title
Ryder Hesjedal has been honoured with a pre-season gift as best Canadian male athlete of the year. Hesjedal received the biggest number of votes from sports writers across the country to take out the annual Lionel Conacher Award - a poll that begun in 1932.
Hesjedal's historic win at the first grand tour of the year, the Giro d'Italia, was the second most popular stage race in Cyclingnews' reader poll. The slim victory margin at the Italian race and nature in which the Canadian took the overall title was undoubtedly impressive.
"I still think a lot of people don't really understand," Hesjedal told the Canadian Press. "You see stuff [like] 'He won it on the last day.' Like things just get decided that simply.
"You're winning it every moment, over every kilometre for three weeks. It's just incredible. There's not really anything like it. Really, to be a Grand Tour winner, it's a very small club and it's a very elite club and I'm very grateful for that."
After wearing the maglia rosa on-and-off throughout the race, it all came down to the final time trial. The Garmin-Sharp rider entered the final stage with a 31-second deficit to Joaquim Rodríguez and after putting in a top-ten performance in the time trial, came away with the Giro title and a slim 16-second gap to second-place Rodríguez.
Hesjedal described the award as "an incredible honour" after he received 139 points and 32 first-place votes against the runner-up, Tennis player Milos Raonic who accumulated 131 points and 26 first-place votes.
With the sport of professional cycling undergoing somewhat of a difficult time in light of USADA's Reasoned Decision report and the stripping of Lance Armstrong's seven Tour de France titles,. Hesjedal was adamant that cycling should be recognised.
"It's even more crucial to recognize the achievements of now," the Giro champion said.
Hesjedal has stated he will start his season later than 2012, when he rode the Tour Down Under, before returning to the Giro in an attempt to defend his crown.