Two hours after crossing the line and sealing the 2012 Giro d’Italia title, Ryder Hesjedal sat down for a phone conference from his home media. Never before has Canada celebrated a grand tour win, and never before has the national appetite and interest in cycling been so high.
At his home in Victoria, friends gathered around to watch the final time trial in Milan. Nothing surprising about that , but the presence of a CBC camera crew certainly was. For a nation hooked on ice hockey, ice hockey and ice hockey, Hesjedal’s moment appeared to have the nation wrapped up in frenzy. One cycling fan called him the Wayne Gretzky of cycling but more serious was the message delivered from the head of the Canadian government.
“We thank Mr. Hesjedal for this defining moment in Canadian sport,” Prime Minister Stephen Harper said. “This remarkable win in one of bicycle racing's most gruelling competitions is a testimony to Mr. Hesjedal’s training, endurance, skill and competitive spirit.”
The man himself was a little more subdued in his choice of words but he did express hope that his win could inspire more individuals back in Canada to take up cycling.
“I think this win will create awareness. First of all people will know that there’s more than one race out there besides the Tour de France. Cycling means so many things on so many levels and there are so many positives, for your health, for your mind, your body, for the environment. Cycling has given me so much and I’ve dedicated my whole life to cycling and this is just a culmination of all those years. Canadian cycling is at the highest level it has ever been and hopefully this will continue that.”
Gord Fraser, now part of the Canadian Olympic set up, was at the Giro and yearned for a big time sponsor to back a Canadian WorldTour team in the same vein as Astana and GreenEdge. “Why not for Canada? We have the foundation with what Steve Bauer is doing with Spidertech so maybe this exposure we’ve got from Ryder will be the catalyst to bring in a new era for cycling in Canada.”