With a successful 2010 season under his belt Ryder Hesjedal has already turned his attention to next year. The Canadian had a breakthrough year, winning a stage of the Tour of California, finishing second in Amstel Gold and becoming Garmin-Transitions leader at the Tour de France with seventh place overall.
"When I look at next year the aim is going to be to do the same again but improve where I can. It's about refining and if I can be just be a little bit better in a few races that will be a good season. Turning some of those seconds and thirds into wins, that's where it gets tough. The margin for error is so small. Sometimes it's out of your hands but if you get something perfect..." Hesjedal told Cyclingnews.
The Canadian raced a total of 71 days this year, a similar programme to previous years, but rose up the UCI ranking to eighth, to become the highest placed North American.
"You don't get that if you've not been riding consistently so I'm really proud of that and it's been a great year," Hesjedal said.
While strong performances in the Ardennes and California stand out, it was Hesjedal's Tour that threw the Canadian onto the true world stage. An energetic display on the epic stage to Arenberg gave him the platform to build on his GC ambitions as well as giving Garmin an alternative as Christian Vande Velde crashed out and Farrar struggled with injury.
As the Tour unfolded Hesjedal began to talk more confidently about his GC ambitions and for 2011 he'll return more assured that he can aim for another top performance.
"I was planning on stepping up to ride a better Tour no matter what," he said.
"I was always looking to do well but the way it unfolded just happened. It was only my third tour."
Despite the Garmin team being decimated through injuries and withdraws, Hesjedal found inspiration in the survival instincts and dedication displayed by his team as they threw what they had behind his GC bid.
"David Millar had bones floating around his chest, but you go through that battle with a group of guys and have that camaraderie and it brings you together. He could have gone home but he wanted to be there with the team. That support makes a difference to how you ride."
With the Tour route set to be announced in the coming weeks, Hesjedal will have one eye on the presentation in Paris. With more media pressure seemingly having no effect on his laid back demeanour, the easy question is whether he truly believes he can improve in a three week tour and compete against the Contadors and Schlecks.
"I'm in a nice place where I can say that five years ago I never thought I could have been at this level but at the Tour. If I look at where I was and how I felt in the third week I definitely think I can get better. I could have done a better on the Madeleine so I think I can get closer to the best. I know I can improve."
While Hesjedal's career has followed an upward trajectory in the last three years, his transition from mountain biking to the road took a number of years to pan out. Intially signed by Lance Armsrtong's US Postal team, the Canadian found it hard to settle and after another crack of the whip at Phonak, decided to regroup in the US with a year-long domestic season.
"There have been years when I've not been as happy and not enjoying it as much and struggling but I think everyone has that story," Hesjedal said.
"The early years when I left mountain biking I was thrown into the deep end. I was good enough to be on a team like Postal but I was at the bottom and filling rosters and the resources aren't for you. You still want the opportunity but '05 and '06 were hard years. That's what led to '07 and me deciding to pull back and decide on what I was doing and regroup. These last three years have been everything I set out to do."
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