The overall victory of Ryder Hesjedal (Garmin-Barracuda) at the Giro d’Italia shocked a few but showed that cycling fans have to get used to seeing new faces on the podiums of the Grand Tours, even though they aren’t exactly young anymore.
In the space of one year, Michele Scarponi went on stage at the Giro in Milan at the age of 31 last year; Fränk Schleck made the top three of the Tour de France in 2011 for the first time at 31 and Bradley Wiggins was also 31 when he finished third at the Vuelta a Espana, behind Juan José Cobo, 30. At the age of 26, Chris Froome was a young face in a business where people were used to seeing champions coming through age at around 23, like Bernard Hinault.
Sunday's final podium of the 2012 Giro d’Italia is totally made of newcomers: Hesjedal, 31, Joaquim Rodriguez, 33, and Thomas De Gendt, 25.
“Cycling is getting very exciting,” Hesjedal said after being asked about this matter. “I’ve had a long career. I’m happy to be in the sport at this time.”
The Canadian, who looked unaffected by the pressure of winning a grand tour, was finally caught up by emotions at the end of the time trial in Milan.
“With 5km to go, I’ve believed that the Giro victory was mine,” he said. “It’s hard to describe this feeling. It’s a dream come true. When I lost the pink jersey [on two occasions], I only thought of getting it back. I took some risks during the time trial but I had to. This is the result of a life of hard work. I couldn’t be happier.”
Hesjedal added what he could see as a secret behind his victory. “I got the opportunity to focus on this Giro. It’s not often that you have the possibility to be the captain of such a great team. But I’ve never thought of winning the Giro, I only thought of having a good ride. My ambitions increased once I was able to get more confidence on my rivals, and it was an honor to race amongst them. My teammates were even believing more than me. I’m proud of what they did.”
The Tour de France is next for the Canadian in a role that has yet to be determined.