By Gregor Brown in Valkenburg, The Netherlands
Canada's Ryder Hesjedal is building for the Giro d'Italia with a week of full-throttle racing in The Netherlands and Belgium. The 27 year-old of Team Slipstream Chipotle - H30 will re-evaluate his objectives for the Italian Grand Tour, May 10 to June 1, once the dust has settled in Ans, the arrival town of Liège-Bastogne-Liège.
"It was an awesome day with the weather," said Hesjedal to Cyclingnews after finishing the Amstel Gold Race on Sunday. He came across the line in 82nd, it was his second time to finish the Dutch one-day in three participations. "I finished with Discovery in 2005."
Hesjedal knows that the tough racing will pay off when he arrives in Sicilia for the start of the Giro d'Italia. "I did not feel super today, but I was pleased that I felt better as the day went along. The final here is the top of the top of the [riders], and it was realistic I was not at the front today. I sort of felt that would be case coming into the race. Many of these guys are coming of País Vasco, and I am really using these races for the Giro build up.
"For how I felt, I was really pleased to make the majority of the selection," he added. "I was in the group with [team-mate] Millar and Andy [Schleck of Team CSC] – not everyone can arrive in the front."
After finishing 10th in Eroica and eighth overall in Tirreno-Adriatico in March before taking a racing break, he is pleased with his form. "I feel a big shift, even if I am not super, I am finishing feeling well. It is a good sign for me. ... It was full gas out there, a race of six hours and there is not even a moment of cruising. It is epic sensory overload, I am sure tonight we will still feel the corners and everything tonight in the bed."
Hesjedal will be back for the Flèche Wallonne on Wednesday and Liège-Bastogne-Liège on Sunday.
"I had a successful early part of the season and the idea is to arrive at the Giro in the best way possible, it is for the benefit of the team and me. I did it in 2005, but I crashed really badly on the fifth stage [stage six - ed.], and it got worse from there – I only made it 14 days."
The USA-based team will prioritise its Giro d'Italia plans after the finish of Sunday's race and the on-going Tour de Georgia. "The clear goal is the opening team TT and then for me to have a solid Giro," he stated. "We will look after Liège and the other guys come back from Georgia."