Ryder Hesjedal sat upright with his hands on his hips as he freewheeled through the finish area and towards his Trek-Segafredo team bus after conceding 43 seconds in the finale of stage 4 of the Giro d’Italia to Praia a Mare.
For the equable Canadian, the stance effectively amounted to a statement of the deepest frustration, though by the time he reports for duty again on stage 5, Hesjedal will probably have reconciled himself to the fact that it could have been a whole lot worse.
Indeed, on a strikingly similar stage further up the Tyrrhenian coast a year ago, it was precisely that, when Hesjedal conceded five minutes and all hopes of a podium finish on the road to La Spezia.
On that occasion, Hesjedal was caught out when Astana upped the ante more than two hours from the finish, and he was doubtless alert to a similar danger on Monday’s stage, which saw the peloton spend 200 kilometres weaving among the headlands and outcrops of the Calabrian coast beneath sunshine that was more persistent than pleasant.
"It was fast all day, and definitely in the last 80k or so it was full-on with shorter, complicated climbs," Hesjedal said in a statement later released by his Trek-Segafredo team.
When the peloton fragmented more definitively on the final, uncategorised climb of the Fortino, which featured gradients that touched 18% persistent, Hesjedal was caught on the wrong side of the split.
Vincenzo Nibali (Astana), Alejandro Valverde (Movistar) et al may have been within sight over the top, but distances are never quite what they seem on this coastline. Earlier on Monday’s stage, the Giro peloton passed through the village of Maierà, just 900 metres from neighbouring Grisolia as the crow flies, yet separated by a ravine and more than ten kilometres of twisting road.
So it was for Hesjedal, who saw his initial deficit of metres yawn out to 43 seconds (37 to the Nibali-Valverde group) despite his frantic attempts to chase back on in the final eight kilometres of the stage.
"Even on the last climb I was right there and I could see the front and just in the last couple of switchbacks before getting onto the highway a bunch of guys let the wheels go and then all of a sudden no one wanted to help [close it]. I was a bit isolated and a few seconds at the top turned into 35 in seven kilometres,” Hesjedal. “That's the frustrating part, but what can you do?”
The 2012 Giro winner now finds himself 28th overall on general classification, some 1:27 down on restored leader Tom Dumoulin (Giant-Alpecin), but he can take heart from the fact that he overcame a far greater early deficit twelve months ago to reach Milan in fifth place overall.
"It was a complicated stage near the end. But I feel that we rode well and did everything right,” Hesjedal said. “Then still at the end to still lose time eats at you a little bit more. But the race is long so you can't get too worried about it."
Kruijswijk learns lessons of 2014
Like Hesjedal, Steven Kruijswijk (LottoNL-Jumbo) conceded a huge heft of time on the same treacherous stage a year ago, losing more than eight minutes en route to La Spezia. And, like Hesjedal, an aggressive showing in the second and third weeks saw him rise to finish seventh overall by the time the race reached Milan.
This time around, Kruijswijk was mindful not to make the same errors again, and the Dutchman was present and correct on the Fortino when the group of favourites was whittled down by Astana’s forcing.
“I’m being supported a little bit more than last year and we’re trying to be a bit attentive at the points where we should be,” Kruijswijk told Cyclingnews as he warmed down after the stage. “I’m maybe a little bit more alert this year because of last year, and I have more confidence now. I didn’t want to make the same mistake again.”
Kruijswijk would end his day with a flourish, taking third on the stage after drifting off the front of the group of favourites in the company of Tom Dumoulin and he now lies fourth overall, 24 seconds down on his fellow countryman.
“I was sitting on Tom’s wheel because I knew he was strong and then suddenly he tried to ride away in the last k so I followed him,” Kruijswijk said. “It was hard, all I could do was pull once with him and then get third. But I’m satisfied with this.”
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