Ryder Hesjedal (Garmin-Cervélo) believes his top form will bring him a victory, or two, at the WorldTour events Grande Prix Cycliste de Quebec City held on September 9 and Grand Prix Cycliste de Montreal held on September 11. Just in case good form is not enough, he will also carry the additional support of a lucky four-leaf clover given to him on loan by his soon-to-be father-in-law.
"I want to race well, perform well, and be happy when I leave the race," Hesjedal said. "I want to win here, perform well and stay on the top of the podium. I'm confident in my ability to do that, but there are a lot of other racers capable of that, it is going to be a hard race.
"I see myself as a leader here, as a rider that has shown that I am capable of riding at the front for most of the race," he said. "I feel like I will be able to lead my team and try for a top result."
Hesjedal placed fourth at the Grand Prix de Quebec City last year, behind winner Thomas Voeckler (BBox Bouygues Telecom), Edvald Boasson Hagen (Sky Pro Cycling) and Robert Gesink (Rabobank). The near-podium performance came at the end of a highly aggressive showdown amongst some of the top riders in the world, where he made a late-race attack and nearly held it to the line.
"Last year was more on feel and I was excited, wanted to push the race, and wasn't necessarily confident," Hesjedal said. "I was sick and wasn't sure how things were going to work out. It felt like the time to go and it almost worked out. I think it shaped the race.
"I can always took back and think of how things could have worked differently and I will certainly be thinking of that this year. I'm happy with the way it worked out last year and I will know more for this year from that experience."
He rode on to the podium in third place at the Grand Prix Cycliste de Montreal behind race winner Gesink and Peter Sagan (Liquigas-Cannondale).
"I took the risk of trying to win in Quebec last year," Hesjedal said. "In Montreal I was more conservative and played a gamble to work with the other riders and that didn't work out also. You never know, you just have to try and we will see what happens this weekend."
Hesjedal recently arrived to Quebec from a three-week training session at altitude in Colorado. He also competed at the USA Pro Cycling Challenge where his teammates Christian Vande Velde and Tom Danielson placed second and fourth respectively. He believes the high-elevation and mountainous training will give him the edge he needs to bring his team, and his country, the win they are hoping for.
"Yes, I am ready," Hesjedal said. "I had a great period since the Tour of Colorado, had a great race with the team, and I feel better than last year. I was at altitude for 10 days before the race, plus the race, just under three weeks and that is usually enough time to have adaptation to the altitude and I am hoping that helps me here."
Hesjedal placed seventh at the Tour de France last year. This year he was part of Garmin-Cervélo's winning team time trial effort on stage 2 and later secured three top-10 stage finishes. Hesjedal ended up 18th overall after taking on a domestique role for overall contender Tom Danielson who placed ninth. In addition, Garmin-Cervélo won the overall team classification.
"Last year was a big year, when you reach things that you haven't accomplished before it is always a key moment in a career and it is always a trick to keep bettering that," Hesjedal said. "If I look at my season as a whole I know that I improved, it doesn't always show in the results because they don't always tell the story.
"The Tour de France, personally I got 18th overall," he said. "There were a lot of different circumstance compared to last year to get through it the way that I did. To be a part of the success the team had, that was huge in anyone's career, and I will look back on the 2011 Tour de France for a long time."
Hesjedal will remain with Garmin-Cervélo for 2012 and 2013 when his contract is scheduled to expire.