Hesjedal nets second Vuelta stage win of career

Five years after he won the Vuelta 2009's hardest mountain stage at Velefique, Ryder Hesjedal forged to victory again during stage 14, on the steepest climb of the 2014 race.

For Hesjedal the victory on the Camperona, the first of three mountain top finishes, was even more welcome given he had worked hard on a break in stage 7, only to crash and miss out on the opportunity to battle for the win with Alessandro De Marchi (Cannondale).

This time round, having again got in the break of the day, there was no such bad luck. Instead the Garmin-Sharp rider shadowed the early drives on the Camperona then calculated his strength perfectly to come past Oliver Zaugg (Tinkoff-Saxo) with 50 metres to go, take his first win since the overall of the Giro d'Italia in 2012. On a climb as difficult - and with no references possible given it had never been tackled before in a bike race - as the Camperona, gauging his strength so well can have been no easy task, but Hesjedal got it exactly right.

Hesjedal had started the Vuelta a España with more than half an eye on the overall classification, but as the Canadian put it "when that GC option went out of the window, I was not too upset, Dan [Martin-tenth overall and Garmin's co-leader for GC] is in good condition. With Dan for GC, it was up to the rest of us to take the opportunities wherever we can.

"I had a really good shot on stage seven, unfortunately I crashed there so it was all on today. To get the win is unbelievable, I couldn't be happier. I'm super-pleased to get the job done today. What it means will sink in a little bit later."

As Hesjedal pointed out, the Vuelta was where he took his first Grand Tour stage win, too, - "so that's kind of cool to do it here again." For the record, the Velefique was a long, draggy, broad ascent on the dry, bare moonscapes of Almeria in SE Spain that culiminated a day of 6,500 metres of vertical climbing, a very different beast indeed to the narrow, ultra-steep ascent on rain-lashed, verdant green slopes where Hesjedal won on Saturday.

Explaining how he had tackled such a challenging climb, Hesjedal said he had "felt a bit angry because I know bike racing and [earlier attacker Oliver] Zaugg (Tinkoff-Saxo) had had a bit of an easy ride. He'd been sitting on with his team leading.

"So I dug deep to get him back, I knew how to go steady and hold my own rhythm. I was pretty motivated. I lined them up and finished them off."

Having faced allegations that he had used a 'motorised' bike on stage 7, Hesjedal said it was "ridiculous... there are a lot of things I want to say, but it's not worth it."

He was more communicative about his race options for the rest of the season, saying he had not yet thought much about whether he would be doing the World Championships. “My program is only fixed on the Italian one-day races and the Tour of Beijing, I haven’t really factored it in. As of right now, if I had to make a decision, I may take a pass.”

Ponferrada then, may finally be scratched from Hesjedal's provisional program - but this Saturday Hesjedal has already racked up one major triumph in Spain heading into autumn, and there may be more to come.

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Alasdair Fotheringham

Alasdair Fotheringham has been reporting on cycling since 1991. He has covered every Tour de France since 1992 bar one, as well as numerous other bike races of all shapes and sizes, ranging from the Olympic Games in 2008 to the now sadly defunct Subida a Urkiola hill climb in Spain. As well as working for Cyclingnews, he has also written for The IndependentThe GuardianProCycling, The Express and Reuters.