Ryder Hesjedal (Garmin-Sharp) brought his 2012 season to an end with an aggressive showing on the final stage of the Tour of Beijing. The Canadian was out-sprinted for stage honours by Steve Cummings (BMC) after bridging to the early break and then attacking on the final climb to Si Zuo Lou.
Hesjedal's Garmin-Sharp teammate Dan Martin was lying third overall as the day began, and many were anticipating that the Irishman would be the man to ask the most telling questions of red jersey Tony Martin (Omega Pharma-QuickStep), but instead it was Hesjedal (who started the stage 1:30 back) who seized the initiative.
"Today I was 100 percent focused on the general classification, and I believed it was possible to win until we crossed the first line," Hesjedal said afterwards. "Perhaps if the race had finished in a top of a mountain I would have won, but I have no regrets about the final sprint. With the peloton chasing behind and the prospect of winning GC we had to go full gas and not hesitate."
The racing in Beijing was, of course, overshadowed by the release of USADA's reasoned decision on the Lance Armstrong case during the week. The 1,000 page dossier provides explicit details of a systematic doping programme at the US Postal Service team, and features evidence from 26 individuals.
Three of Hesjedal's current Garmin-Sharp teammates - David Zabriskie, Christian Vande Velde and Tom Danielson - were among those to provide evidence. After confessing to doping during their time at US Postal, the trio face six-month suspensions.
Asked by Cyclingnews for his reaction at the start in Changping on Saturday, Hesjedal - who began his own full-time road career at US Postal in 2004 - limited himself to voicing his support for Zabriskie, Vande Velde and Danielson.
"I've been focused on the racing," Hesjedal said. "It's been going on for a while. I'm on my team. I support my team and my teammates and what we stand for. Everything that's going on, when you're racing, you focus on the racing."
With the season now at an end, the Giro d'Italia winner Hesjedal will spend some time in Canada before travelling to Hawaii, where his preparation will begin once again. "I'll spend the winter there," he said. "I hope I get the good recovery in there and then build again towards next season.
"After having kind of a break in August [he crashed out of the Tour de France - ed.], it made sense to do these races and squeeze in this race, and that way I can go into the off-season with some good racing in my legs. Next year, I'll most likely not start racing at the Tour Down Under but in February-March."