If Australian Cadel Evans can finish third in the Giro d’Italia at 36, which he did on Sunday, then there’s no need to think Ryder Hesjedal’s career is ending anytime soon.
All due respect to the 2011 Tour de France winner Evans, truly one of the elite road cyclists in the world, who’s mature appearance and chiseled good looks are well weathered enough to make Hesejdal’s 32-year-old appearance look more like 22.
Maybe he’s a baby face. Or maybe there’s a lot of sun, wind and rain to come for Hesjedal, a Belmont secondary grad and the 2012 Giro champion. Hesjedal now looks at regaining his form for the Tour de France in July.
“It’s heartbreaking,” Hesjedal said in his team’s release when he withdrew prior to Stage 12 of 21 on the Giro.
“I built my entire season around the Giro and I came here feeling great but I have been suffering since (Stage 9).”
Hesjedal returned to his Spanish residence in Girona to recover from what was diagnosed as a respiratory infection, one that affected many in the peloton. The bug also forced the withdraw of Giro favourite Bradley Wiggins, 2012 Tour de France winner, on Stage 13.
Hesjedal is planning to compete in the eight-stage Tour de Suisse, June 8 to 16, in preparation for the Tour de France, June 29 to July 21.
Hesjedal and the Garmin-Sharp medical staff made the decision to pack it in based on his deteriorating physical condition, which linked back to Stage 8. Hesjedal didn’t perform well in the 54.8-kilometre time trial of Stage 8; he finished two minutes, 23 seconds back of the stage winner. He remained sixth overall in the general classification but subsequently dropped out of the top-10 in Stage 9, when he lost two minutes on the lead group which included Evans, Wiggins, and eventual winner Vincenzo Nibali.
Before he finished, Hesjedal helped Garmin-Sharp teammate Ramunas Navardauskas win Stage 11.
“(Hesjedal’s) effort during the time trial and in the cold and wet conditions continued to impact his body’s ability to fight the infection and he ultimately succumbed,” said team physician Phil Stawski. “The only option to prevent the worsening of his condition was to stop racing and allow him to recover.”
“(Hesjedal) was in great condition before the Giro and while it’s a shame that he got so sick, we’re glad he is starting to come around,” said Garmin-Sharp CEO Jonathan Vaughters. “Our team staff will continue to work closely with him to get him healthy again, that’s priority No. 1.”
From the peloton
Good on Sportsnet for airing complete coverage of the 2013 Giro d’Italia, one of three grand tours with the Tour de France and the Vuelta a Espana. The Giro ended with an exciting finish despite the absence of Hesjedal.
Unfortunately the sport’s dirty side returned. Not helping the rebuilding image of cycling was the expulsion of two Giro riders for testing positive to banned substances: Italian Danielo Di Luca for testing positive with EPO and French cyclist Sylvain Georges for Heptaminol.