Following the exit of pre-race Garmin-Transitions leader Christian Vande Velde from this year's Tour de France, Ryder Hesjedal has stepped forward and taken responsibility for the team's general classification aspirations.
After the demanding ninth stage that included no less than five categorised climbs, including the brutal 25.5km Col de la Madeleine, a sweat-soaked Hesjedal rolled through the press army that awaited the riders at the finish in Saint-Jean-de-Maurienne, having dropped from sixth overall to 12th.
"I'm not suffering from any sores or pains. We'll see how I fare," Hesjedal told Cyclingnews. Clearly, he had been out on his own during the final kilometres of the stage and was keen to know how his rivals had fared. "Was it the breakaway that stayed away? Lance and Levi? At a couple of minutes?" he asked.
"I was in the group with Carlos, Rogers, Wiggins... we finished I think at 4:50," the Canadian quickly confirmed. He finished in front of the fifth group on the road, in 23rd place at 4:53 behind stage winner Sandy Casar. The result drops him six places in the overall standings.
Whilst not recognised before the race as a general classification contender, Hesjedal still finds himself ahead of 2008 Tour champion Carlos Sastre, his former teammate Bradley Wiggins and former overall podium star Andreas Klöden. He wasn't thinking of that fact on the finish line, however.
"It was pretty hard, man. There weren't so many guys," explained Hesjedal. "I honestly didn't feel that great today. It wasn't a good day to not feel that super, with the Madeleine, that was... whooh... too long. Cadel didn't look very good," he added.
"I just didn't have super legs, so that was a long tough day to hang on. I'm still pleased that I can battle with guys of that calibre," he said.