Ryder Hesjedal will end his 2014 season at this week's Tour of Beijing, bring the curtain down on a long season that included the Giro d'Italia, the Vuelta a España and over eighty days of racing that began back on February 5 at the Dubai Tour
It was also his first season after confessing to doping a decade ago during his early career as a mountain biker.
For many months the Garmin-Sharp team insisted that Hesjedal was not allowed to talk about what happened due to an on-going investigation by USADA and the Canadian Centre for Ethics in Sport, to whom he confessed in March 2013. Hesjedal eventually shared his personal thoughts in a long, emotional interview in his local newspaper, the Victoria-based Times Colonist on August 23, as he started the Vuelta a Espana. He has published the interview on his personal website (ryderhesjedal.ca).
Revealing his inner feeling on what happened perhaps lifted a weight off his shoulders, and Hesjedal showed some impressive form at the Vuelta. He won stage 14 on the steep finish to La Camperona after timing his move perfectly and holding off the overall contenders. Victory made up for a late crash on stage 7 that cost him any chance of overall success and also put to bed the wild stories about a possible motor in his bike. He eventually finished 24th overall, helping Dan Martin secure seventh overall.
Hesjedal also played a vital role for Martin at Il Lombardia, helping him win by doing some huge turns on the front to bring back a late attack. He had done the same heavy lifting when Martin won Liege-Bastogne-Liege in 2013.
He will likely work for Martin at the Tour of Beijing and try to take his own opportunities if they come. If they don't, Hesjedal will still be happy with his 2015 season.
“It's been a long year but I think I'm happy with how it's gone,” he told Cyclingnews. “It's nice get through a full complete season. I think I rode well where I wanted to and you can't ask for much more than that.”
Hesjedal finished ninth overall in the Giro d'Italia and was second to Nairo Quintana (Movistar) on the stage in the snow to Val Martello. Like the Colombian, he raced on over the Passo Stelvio while others hesitated. Many were surprised that Hesjedal opted to ride the Giro d'Italia and Vuelta a España and so give up a place at the Tour de France, where Andrew Talansky was the designated team leader.
“It was good to take the Giro and Vuelta opportunity and try a few other things and ride a few other races. So no, I'm really happy with the year,” he said.
He also surprisingly passed on a chance to represent Canada at the world road championships in Ponferrada.
“I wanted to make sure I had a good break before the end of season block with Lombardia and Beijing. You've got to make these choices, you can't ride everything, so I decided to make a pass at worlds,” he explained.
Ready for the changes with Cannondale in 2015
After the Tour of Beijing, Hesjedal will take a well-deserved break and then probably head to Hawaii to once more train in the sun and avoid the Canadian winter; through he hints he may start racing in January in 2015, perhaps mixing a trip to Australia with a training camp in Hawaii.
Like all his Garmin-Sharp teammates, Hesjedal will pull on new team colours and get a new bike on January 1 as the team becomes Cannondale for 2015. With close friend David Millar retiring and significant rider roster changes due to the merger of the Garmin-Sharp and Cannondale teams, Hesjedal knows the team will have a different feel in 2015. But he is convinced that the changes will be for the better.
“There's always change with riders and other aspects of a team, it happens all the time as teams develop, grow and evolve,” he said.
“The core of the team will be there and be still the same with Slipstream Sports, who I'm used to working with. The team has always tried to improve itself year on year. There's obviously a lot of new stuff coming in for 2015 but I think its for the better.”