The 2012 overall winner went on the attack in search of a stage victory but was foiled yet again. This time Fabio Aru (Astana) grabbed the glory and the stage victory, with Hesjedal finishing 28 seconds behind in second place.
Hesjedal admitted he was not feeling great but his racing instinct again took over and he attacked alone on the road to Cervinia with eight kilometres to go. Aru jumped across to him and then attacked him, going clear to win.
“I think I messed up, I shouldn’t have tried to stay with Aru when he accelerated,” a bearded Hesjedal said after coming out of anti-doping.
“That completely exploded me, where as if I didn’t go into the red, I think I could have got on terms with him and tried my chance in the sprint against him. It’s a little frustrating.”
As a former Giro d’Italia winner, Hesjedal is not interested in fighting for a place in the top 10; his attacks have been in search of a stage victory. Moving up to seventh overall, 12:05 down on Contador and only 1:58 from fifth place, is the silver lining to his aggressive racing and of little consolation.
“I just like to be racing the way I’m racing,” he explained.
“I think my riding and performing is better than the result reflects. The result is just a product of racing this way. As I keep saying, I’ve won the Giro, so I’m not excited for fifth or seventh overall.”
Hesjedal insisted he has no regrets for losing time early in the three-week race. Cannondale-Garmin was only 19th in the opening team trial, then Hesjedal lost 5:25 on the stage to La Spezia when young teammate Davide Formolo won alone. Hesjedal got better as the race went on. He rode well in the long Valdobbiadene time trial to kick off his fight back and continued in the mountains of the final week. He was sixth in Aprica after an aggressive ride before and over the Mortirolo.
“In the end everything happens for a reason,” he said, revealing his stage race philosophy. “I could have lost no time in the first week and then been in the second week with a crash. There are so many things that go on in a race. Maybe if I had the legs to be on the podium, maybe you beat yourself up a little bit more.
“I’m completely happy, you can’t control everything. I’m happy to be on the front in the third week. The field and the level is incredible here. Hats off to Aru and Astana, they’re unreal, riding all day like that. I’m just happy to be up there in the front.”
Racing for a place in the Tour de France?
Hesjedal rode aggressively in the 2014 Giro d’Italia, finishing ninth overall but was overlooked for a place in the Garmin Tour de France line-up, as the team built its squad around Andrew Talansky. Hesjedal went on to ride the Vuelta a España, won a stage and was second on another.
Despite a busy race schedule in April and May, he is keen to ride the Tour de France this year and is convinced he will be able to recover and be strong despite his aggression at the Giro d’Italia.
“I did Trentino and Romandie coming into this; that’s 31 race days with the weekend coming up. You get a load in your legs and I think I benefit from it. Now I’ll just freshen up and we’ll regroup and see what the plan is for the rest of the year,” he said avoiding giving a direct answer about the Tour de France.
When pushed to clarify he said: “You’re not doing a race until you’re out of the race. That was always the plan and is why I started the season a little slow, with the Giro-Tour in mind. It’s all going as good as it goes for that.”
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