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Ryder Hesjedal (Garmin - Barracuda) in the favorites' group
First Canadian win would increase Anglo-Saxon influence
Italian media are using irony to highlight new Giro d'Italia boss Michele Acquarone's evident inclination for the English language and the internationalization of the event. But they're ready to welcome Ryder Hesjedal as the first Canadian winner of the corsa rosa, should the rider from Garmin-Barracuda confirm tomorrow that he has the power to recover his 31-second deficit from current race leader Joaquim Rodriguez, who is not exactly a time trial specialist.
"Fight for pink" is now the official slogan of the Giro d'Italia. It has never been so appropriate as this weekend with Jonathan Vaughters' Garmin-Barracuda team on the edge of winning its first Grand Tour. The team made its debut in three-week long races at the 2008 Giro d'Italia and won the inaugural team time trial to bring Christian Vande Velde in pink.
Hesjedal has not been very talkative throughout the 2012 Giro d'Italia, but he looked pretty happy with the outcome of stage 20 at the top of the Passo dello Stelvio. "They have tried to make me lose," he said of his Italian rivals. "But today, the team has been incredible. I'm proud of how we rode. Everybody tried to stick to us. The whole Giro has been amazing. I hope I have enough of a lead. I'm gonna give everything tomorrow."
During stage 20, Hesjedal faced a double challenge. Not only did he have to control the actions of Katusha's Rodriguez and Michele Scarponi (Lampre-ISD), but his potential lead was also threatened by Thomas De Gendt (Vacansoleil DCM) whose advantage increased drastically in the ascent to the Stelvio.
"At the front, De Gendt was becoming dangerous," Garmin-Barracuda's Director Sportif Charly Wegelius said. "It was necessary to limit the gap to him as he wasn't showing any sign of fading, and at the same time, Ryder was facing possible attacks by Rodriguez and Scarponi. The stage result is the best that Ryder and the team could get."
Wegelius refused to evaluate the chances of Hesjedal to win with a deficit of 31 seconds. "Nothing is guaranteed," he said. "It's the media's job to make analysis, calculations and predictions. We don't want to speculate."
Wegelius confirmed that Hesjedal is part of Garmin-Barracuda's plans for the Tour de France, in which he finished seventh two years ago.
In an interview with Cyclingnews in January prior to the start of the season at the Jacob's Creek visitor centre in the Barossa Valley ahead of the Santos Tour Down Under, the lanky Canadian had said, "The team has given me the opportunity to ride the Giro for GC, the course suits me this year. I only rode the Tour de France in the past two years, and it's a good time to do two Grand Tours again."
He didn't see himself fighting for pink, but in reality, that is just what he's doing with 31km against the clock to go in tomorrow's final stage.