As Garmin-Sharp’s Ryder Hesjedal’s Giro d'Italia progresses, the latest box to be ticked by the Canadian came when he did not lose any time on the other top contenders in either of the weekend's mountain stages.
However, after the team’s incident-blighted opening team time trial which saw Garmin-Sharp finish dead last, the Canadian’s comparatively low position on GC means it was a landmark that was barely noticed — except by Hesjedal and his team.
For the record, Hesjedal finished 14th on stage nine, within main group of favourites, and on stage eight on Saturday he was tenth, just 20 seconds back on winner Diego Ulissi (Lampre-Merida) and 12 seconds down on new leader Cadel Evans (BMC Racing).
However, the big time loss — 3:26 — which Hesjedal suffered together with the rest of his team when Garmin-Sharp had a mass crash on stage one, explains why he is currently 4:30 back and 17th overall.
"I feel good in general, obviously there was the crash for us [Garmin-Sharp] on the first day but since then I've managed to stay out of trouble, [an issue] which has been pretty key in this race for a lot of guys," Hesjedal told Cyclingnews shortly before stage nine.
"There’s been a few solid tests so far but I've felt good. Keeping that in mind, if I look at where my strengths are in these types of racing, I'm feeling good and should improve in the third week which is where it’s the most important."
“Yesterday [stage eight] was super hard and we got a good indication of what’ll happen today [stage nine] and see what happens. But I’m definitely confident and I want to look towards doing well in the time trial.”
"Personally I feel really good on the TT bike, probably the best I've ever felt, actually, and I did some good training coming into here. So that doesn't hurt when you've got an important TT coming up, and we’ll see what happens."
The 41.9 kilometre time trial from Barbaresco to Barolo on Thursday is very technical and Hesjedal says; "I haven't done any reconnaissance of the course yet. But we'll do our homework on the day and we'll be ready."
As for that four minute time gap on Evans, when it's pointed out that one of the few upsides is that it might give the Canadian a little more room for manouvre, Hesjedal observes laconically, "It is what it is."
"It doesn’t really affect how I’m racing. You ride the GC, you have to do things a certain way, but it doesn't mean I can’t look for opportunities I wouldn't have been looking for anyway."
"From day one, I started with that time loss, but there's still a lot of racing to go. I know how crucial seconds can be in this event" — he won in 2012 by just 16 seconds from Joaquim Rodriguez, after all — "but this is the Giro and things can change really fast here, too, on a daily basis."
Looking further ahead and asked if he will do the Tour de France, Hesjedal says that at the moment “everything is an option for me and the team. We always look at the situation overall.”
"If I'm able to do a good Giro and I'm even better at Tour de France-time, we'll look at that and see. You have to look at the schedule, we've got all sorts of good riders, maybe I could look at the Vuelta and do a traditional two part season - I've never done that before and that was one idea. But let's get through this one first."
Talking to Cyclingnews again after the stage, Hesjedal said; "That climb was pretty hard, there was a spectator who brought a rider down right before the steep part and I got caught behind that. It stung a little bit to get back on again but I got through all right."
And with two weeks to go in the Giro, there is still time aplenty for Hesjedal to make his mark.
Alasdair Fotheringham has been reporting on cycling since 1991. He has covered every Tour de France since 1992 as well as numerous other bike races of all shapes and sizes, ranging from the Olympic Games in 2008 to the now sadly defunct Subida a Urkiola hill climb in Spain. Apart from working for Cyclingnews.com, he is also the cycling correspondent for The Independent and The Independent on Sunday.
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