The outline of Ryder Hesjedal emerged at the front of the peloton on Thursday at the Tour of Poland, as Garmin-Sharp's leader wanted to make his presence felt on his comeback to competition. On the hilltop finish in Strbske Pleso (Slovakia) he finished 16th in a group of 25 riders that was led home by Rafal Majka (Team Tinkoff-Saxo).
Praising his team for its “awesome work,” the Canadian explained why he surged to the front of the peloton about two kilometers from the finish. “Sometimes you lose a bit of the feeling of racing when you haven't raced for a while,” Hesjedal told Cyclingnews. “You think it's going to be hurting guys but at the end you realize 'Man, they’re still on my wheel!' You never know what will happen.”
Believing, like many, that there was a 16% ramp up to the line as per the official road book’s stage description, Hesjedal was surprised to find instead a gradient of 10-12% which didn't help to break the peloton. “I tried keeping the tempo hard for my own benefit, so the guys couldn't really attack or accelerate,” he added.
The Tour of Poland is the Hesjedal's first race since the Critérium du Dauphiné in early June. He took some time off the bike and met his family and friends in Canada before he went training around his home in Hawaii.
Hesjedal denies that he came to Poland only to build his form to the Vuelta a España, his next big goal after his 9th place overall on the Giro d’Italia in May. “Every race is important,” he said. “You prepare for something in mind but you have to take things how they come. I am not giving up any chance to win.”
He expects to claim a good result on the queen stage on Friday, on a hilly circuit around Bukowina, in the Tartras Mountains, and in the final 25km time trial in Krakow Saturday.
Hesjedal then will focus on the Vuelta, where he will share leadership of Garmin-Sharp with Andrew Talansky, who left the last Tour de France after a crash, and Dan Martin, who is chasing success after he was thwarted by crashes at Liège-Bastogne-Liège and the Giro.
Hesjedal considers the situation with some excitement: “It's a fortunate situation for us, it's not easy to have everyone together [because of the racing calendar]. But if we can take the start line with the three of us in a good shape, no doubts we will get some great results in Spain.”