Ryder Hesjedal's aggressive rider on the first mountain stage of the Giro d'Italia gained him just 30 seconds on race leader Rigoberto Uran (Omega Pharma-QuickStep) but lifted him to twelfth overall and made it clear to everyone that he intends to fight his way back into the top ten and fight all the way to Trieste.
Hesjedal started the Giro d'Italia with a three-minute handicap after Garmin-Sharp crashed in the opening team time trial. He lost a further 49 seconds because of the crash at the foot of the climb to Montecassino and lost three minutes to Uran in the Barolo time trial. The 2012 Giro d'Italia winner started the key mountain stages almost seven minutes down overall but refused to be discouraged.
When Pierre Rolland and his Europcar teammate Bjorn Thurau jumped away on the Bielmonte climb, 50km from the finish, he went after them, with teammate Nathan Haas giving him a vital hand to get across. Hesjedal then helped establish a gap and gave it everything on the climb to the finish in Oropa.
He and Rolland could have gained several minutes if the big-name contenders had not raced hard. In the end their pain was worth little gain but Hesjedal was buoyed by his strong performance.
"It was a perfect scenario for me. They were committed and I was able to sit on and not go super deep. That showed in the way me and Pierre (Rolland) were able to ride the climb (to the finish)," he said praising the Europcar attack.
"Every time Pierre moves, he's pure class. I let them get going first to see what would Uran would do. I felt comfortable and it was a huge effort by Nathan (Haas) to help me get across. I really made the difference when I connected to those guys. I was able to contribute, get over the climb and establish a bit of a gap. Europcar did an amazing ride, adding the one guy from the break, with the other rider (Bjorn Thurau) who went away with Rolland. They killed it all the way up the climb."
Things can change every day
Hesjedal climbed to twelfth overall, 6:13 down on Uran. He is only a minute behind Robert Kiserloski (Trek Factory Racing) and tenth place overall, with other riders ahead of him likely to drop out of the classification in the final week. Hesjedal is convinced he can go on the attack, gain more time and so move into an even better position in the overall standings.
"I don't know… Everyone likes to tell me what I can and can't do," he said with a hint of sarcasm, clearly hurt by people writing him off in this year's Giro d'Italia despite so many tough days in the mountains still to race.
"Everyone decided what will happen in this race a week ago but I just laugh because things can change every day."
"I'm a racer and I'm here to race. I think I did a good ride on stage 14 two years ago too. I feel like things are moving in that same direction and if I can ride like that in the third week, then I'm going to be there."