Ryder Hesjedal is winding down his eight-year term with Jonathan Vaughters’ Garmin programs, Cannondale-Garmin this year, at the Tour of Alberta before making the move to Trek Factory Racing in 2016. When the Canadian’s season is officially over, and he has taken a much-needed rest, he will begin the necessary preparations for a top result at next year’s Giro d’Italia.
Hesjedal became the first Canadian to win an overall title at a Grand Tour when he won the Giro in 2012, with a triumphant celebration outside the Duomo in Milan. He was fifth overall in this year's edition of the race and then went on to finish third atop l'Alpe d'Huez at the Tour de France.
Having a lead role for the Giro d’Italia next year was something that drew him toward Trek Factory Racing.
“Yes, for sure, that’s the main space I will fill for the team,” Hesjedal told Cyclingnews at the start of the stage 4 in Alberta’s Jasper National Park. “It was part of the reason I joined the team, they put that confidence in me and I look forward to the Giro d’Italia next year.”
Hesjedal started out with Vaughters’ Garmin-Chipotle squad, which was registered as a Professional Continental outfit in 2008. Over the years, he raced alongside the likes of Christian Vande Velde, Dave Zabriskie, David Millar, Danny Pate, Tyler Farrar, Dan Martin and Tom Danielson, who have largely been viewed as a the core group of original riders.
Martin recently announced that he will be going to Etixx-QuickStep next year and Danielson is currently facing a sanction after returning a positive anti-doping test for testosterone, effectively making Hesjedal the last to leave the team.
“It’s been an incredible eight years,” Hesjedal told Cyclingnews. “I definitely came into by best as a cyclist on this team and we really had a great group. There has been a lot of transition over the years – a lot of the guys who were the core group; we really dug in together and did a lot of great things.
“They are retired now or have moved on with the rest of their lives and it’s been fun to watch that too.
“For me, it was a combination of needing change and to move on a little bit, take another challenge. For sure, it will be strange at first. Like anything in life, change isn’t necessarily bad – change is change. I’m looking forward to working with different people and changing it up a bit.”
Hesjedal will join Trek Factory Racing’s fleet of climbers including Bauke Mollema, Julian Arredondo and Peter Stetina, who joined the team from BMC Racing. Throughout next season, he will likely share the GC and climbing responsibilities with Mollema, who was seventh overall at the Tour de France this year.
“Bauke is a great rider and he has already proven himself over the years,” Hesjedal said. “I think he’s right at the peak age to be with the strongest. I think it will be great to work with him in whatever races we end up doing, and just being teammates throughout the year.”
Mollema is currently leading the overall classification at the Tour of Alberta, after his team won the stage 1 team time trial and he placed second on mountain stages 3 and 4 to Cannondale-Garmin’s Tom-Jelte Slagter.
Hesjedal came into the race with GC ambitions but also noted that he was feeling the fatigue of competing in nearly 80 race days this year. He was placed 20th overall, 2:17 behind Mollema, with two flat stages to go and was instrumental in helping Slagter to his double stage wins in Jasper.
“It’s been going good but there have been tough days with the weather conditions,” Hesjedal said. “I’m happy for Tom, they were nice victories for him.
“It’s always nice to do well but I’m just enjoying being here. If I keep feeling good day-after-day, then I’ll look towards next week [in Quebec].”
Hesjedal will next travel east to the province of Quebec to compete in the Grand Prix Cyclistes in Quebec City and Montreal on September 11 and 13, respectively.