Ryder Hesjedal was one of several big name riders to end their professional careers at Il Lombardia on Saturday. The last WorldTour race of the 2016 season marked the end of the road for the 2012 Giro d’Italia winner and also the rider he beat to take the maglia rosa that year, Joaquim Rodriguez.
Hesjedal had been hoping to retire quietly - slip out of the back of the peloton at Lombardia like former teammate David Zabriskie did in 2013. He had already said goodbye on home soil while riding the Canadian WorldTour races in Quebec and Montreal and was just hoping to finish Il Lombardia and say a final symbolic goodbye from Italy, where he won the most important race of his 16-year road racing career.
The 2012 Giro d’Italia is the highlight of his career but he also took stage wins at the Vuelta a Espana in 2009 and 2014, finished second in the 2010 Amstel Gold Race, and was fifth in the 2010 Tour de France.
Cyclingnews: Ryder, how does it feel to be at the end of your professional career? Relief? Sadness? Happiness?
Early MTB career and the best years at Slipstream
CN: Why did you decide to switch from mountain biking to road racing? It can’t have been easy.
RH: I was doing a lot of road training anyway because you can’t train in the mud for hours. I’d always raced on the road and was doing national projects when mountain biking. In 2001 or 2002 I rode the Tour of Langkawi for example, so I could see there was a lot more to strive towards on the road. I liked the idea of the challenge of the iconic events like the Tour de France. I first raced for the Rabobank development team and then joined US Postal in 2004. For a while I was trying to racing at the highest level in both sports. But it came clear to me that I was happy with what I’d achieved in mountain bike but there was so much more to do on the road. It was time to make the switch.
Victory at the Giro d’Italia and the suffering to get there
CN: You won the Giro d’Italia by just 16 seconds, beating Joaquim Rodriguez, but you won it with consistency during the three weeks of racing.
Confessing to doping and waiting for the next chapter
CN: You faced a difficult moment in 2013 when it emerged that Michael Rasmussen helped you learn how to dope during your mountain bike career. You’ve rarely spoken about it. Is there anything you want to say now? What was that moment like?