Ryder Hesjedal will head into 2010 with greater confidence after a breakthrough season which saw him take a stage of the Vuelta a España and impressive results at several high profile races. The 28-year-old is hoping to build on this success with a more determined and direct approach to Tirreno-Adriatico and the Ardennes Classics next year.
The Canadian epitomised his Garmin’s new found appetite for success in 2009 as he contributed to the squad's tally of post-Tour de France victories. Hesjedal, David Millar and Tyler Farrar all recorded stage wins at the Vuelta, while David Zabriskie took overall victory at the Tour of Missouri and Farrar also claimed his first monument, the Vattenfall Cyclassics.
"Based on the roster, Garmin will be looking at me for Tirreno-Adriatico and the Ardennes Classics next season. I’ll be there trying to perform there again and the team is confident in that," Hesjedal told Cyclingnews.
Currently training in Hawaii, where he’ll be joined by team leader Christian Vande Velde in the coming days, Hesjedal was quick to put his progression into context. "I see 2008 and 2009 as a pretty solid two year run. It was about keeping momentum going and I did that really well from the start of 2008 until the Worlds this year. Okay, I was running on fumes at the end, but it was solid stint," the Canadian said.
Hesjedal is almost a throw back to riders from an older generation, racing competitively from the start of the year right through until the final events of the season and, unlike many of today’s stars, he doesn’t focus on one event. However, in 2010 Hesjedal will alter his programme slightly and will not begin competition until February. The change has been made in order to peak for Tirreno-Adriatico, where he finished eighth in March this year, and then Liège-Bastogne-Liège, where he placed 11th, six weeks later.
"I don’t want to race as much as I did this season, but I think I can cope with a solid schedule and still ride to my potential," said Hesjedal.
But while a top-15 placing in Liège certainly doesn’t cement a rider as a favourite, Garmin’s Jonathan Vaughters believes that it does give a rider like Hesjedal the chance to shine as a potential wildcard – a rider without the pressure of some of his rivals, but at the same time benefiting from the team’s support.
"Ryder has always had more than enough talent; he’s just taken a while to adapt to the team environment and all the race days of a professional. He came from mountain biking so taking time for that transition is understandable," Vaughters told Cyclingnews. "He’s our wildcard for the Ardennes races. He was good all year round for us."
Hesjedal appears happy to carry the ‘wildcard’ tag bestowed by his manager; "It’s a role I’ve been developing into. I like the responsibility and I like being able to race at all the big events, whether it’s for myself or for others. I really embraced that at the Tour and the Vuelta this year. I put in that work and then had the opportunities to ride and win for myself."
For now, Hawaii is a world away from the cobbled climbs of the Ardennes. The tropical locale is part of a concerted programme of recovery Hesjedal has undertaken since the World Championships in September. "I've taken a good solid break after the Worlds. After two Grand Tours the priority was to rest properly before things started up again. I took a good break and I’m happy with where I am physically. I’ve been keeping the body moving, but not been doing anything super specific on the bike yet. That will change pretty quickly though."
Follow Cyclingnews on Twitter for the very latest coverage of events taking place in the cycling world - twitter.com/cyclingnewsfeed
The 2009 Cyclingnews reader poll
You can still enter the 2009 Cyclingnews reader poll and vote for your riders, teams, races, moments, equipment and photos of the year.
One lucky reader will win an Argon18 Krypton bike so get your entries in before the closing date - December 31, 2009.