With just one spot in the men's Olympic road race Canada has been forced to shoulder Ryder Hesjedal with the sole responsibility of showing off the nation's jersey. However, the Giro d'Italia winner hasn't arrived in London just to showcase the Maple Leaf jersey and is adamant that he can play a significant part in the men's road race, and possibly the time trial.
Hesjedal was selected to represent Canada after his Giro triumph in May and at the end of June he set off for the Tour de France in a bid to win the double. The first few days passed without incident: a strong prologue was followed by assured rides through Belgium but on the stage to Metz Hesjedal's race fell apart. Crashing with 25 kilometres to go in one of the biggest pile-ups in recent years, he was forced out of the race, unable to start the following stage due to a haematoma on his right hip.
"I've just had to get the recovery in and deal with the injury," Hesjedal told Cyclingnews after touching down in London.
"The crash came early so I was training and back to normal after about a week. The last few weeks I've been training well in Girona [Spain] and in the last few days I've just been fine tuning and yesterday I was able to get out on the course."
The Olympic course is one that suits Hesjedal's ability to grind out results. The nine laps of Box Hill will first tire and then provide opportunities for a selection to be made. But with no team support Hesjedal is on his own and will be forced to fend for himself from the word go.
"I've shown my ability to ride on the tough races and I'm hoping to do that on Saturday. It's going to be about taking your chances in the race and going for it. I'll have to read the race as best as possible but I wont have anyone to rely on," he said.
"As far as my personal feeling goes, I don't feel like I've lost a level from where I was at during the Tour. I've tried to simulate racing in training and I've spent more time behind the scooter than ever before."
After the Olympic Games Hesjedal will return to Canada, where he will focus on the Grand Prix Cycliste de Québec and Grand Prix Cycliste de Montréal. The Worlds will see another European escapade before a final race at the Giro di Lombardia. Next year's plans have yet to be rubber-stamped but Hesjedal confirmed to Cyclingnews that another Giro-Tour bid could be on the cards.
"It's a shame that I didn't get to use my form but I'm confident that I can do both races so I think we'll take that approach for next year. Nothing has been set in stone yet though," he said.
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