Ryder Hesjedal (Garmin-Transitions) was the fourth man as the leaders tackled the final, steep and narrow climb that, in the end, proved decisive at the end of Saturday’s Montepaschi Strade Bianche.
When Thomas Löfkvist (Team Sky), the defending champion, accelerated at the bottom, Michael Rogers (HTC-Columbia) and Maxim Iglinskiy (Astana) were quickly on to the Swede’s back wheel. Hesjedal reacted too, but, as he later admitted, he didn’t have the legs to stay with them as the gradient steepened to 16 percent, and Löfkvist continued applying the pressure.
With the top of the climb just 500 metres from the finish, the Canadian had no chance of regaining the leading trio, and he was caught and passed by Filippo Pozzato (Katusha) as they negotiated the bumpy, uneven streets around the back of the Piazza del Campo. But he was happy with fifth, he said, as he looks ahead to a diet of stage races, followed by one of his big targets of his season: the Ardennes Classics.
“I didn’t really feel that great, and I had to dig deep all day,” said Hesjedal at the finish. “I really like this race, and I wanted to do a good ride, but I was cramping a lot at the end. To be honest, I was bluffing a bit as I was coming in with these guys. In the end, I couldn’t go with the top guys.
“It was a hard day,” Hesjedal continued. “But you saw there were a lot of good guys in that front group [which also contained Fabian Cancellara (Saxo Bank) and Juan Antonio Flecha (Team Sky). To get fifth with the field that’s here, I’m pretty pleased with where I’m at."
Looking ahead, the Garmin-Transitions rider said that Tirreno-Adriatico, which gets underway in nearby Livorno on Wednesday, is, “a pretty big goal, then I’ve got the Tour of Catalunya, Pays-Basque, and then I want to show well in Fleche-Wallonne and Liege-Bastogne-Liege. That’s my plan for the spring."