Victoria cycling fans aren’t the only ones sweet on Ryder Hesjedal as he enters Saturday’s Tour de France. The West Shore product briefly wore the red jersey earlier this month

Garmin-Sharp and Victoria are sweet on Ryder

Ryder Hesjedal tops the list of Garmin-Sharp’s nine riders for the Tour de France, which were named in Corsica.

Here he goes again.

Ryder Hesjedal tops the list of Garmin-Sharp’s nine riders for the Tour de France, which were named Wednesday from the team’s hotel on the French island of Corsica.

The Tour opens with three stages on Corsica, beginning Saturday (June 29) from the picturesque city of Porto Vecchio, before moving to the mainland, where it will wrap the 3,404-kilometres in Paris on July 21.

Because it’s the 100th anniversary of the race, its route will run completely in France, though it has a history of looping stages through surrounding countries.

Hesjedal is once again the team’s go-to man and will be their ace to compete for the yellow jersey though up-and-coming American Andrew Talansky could be poised to make a surprise run at the maillot jaune.

“This is the strongest team we have ever had at the Tour de France, and my goal is the team performing at the highest level together,” Hesjedal said during the team’s press conference in Corsica on Thursday.

“Our goal as a team is to do the best we can as a team, we are strong and motivated and we’re going to animate the race.”

The Belmont secondary grad and former mountain biking Olympian is riding his success as the 2012 Giro d’Italia winner and sixth place finisher at the 2010 Tour de France. At 32, there is much time left for the skinny armed ‘preying mantis,’ as cycling commentators have described him, to win another Grand Tour.

Hesjedal is one of five Garmin-Sharp riders returning from Garmin-Cervelo’s  Tour de France team title in 2011. Joining Hesjedal are American veterans Christian Vande Velde and Tom Danielson, up-and-coming Lithuanian Ramunas Navardauskas and British time trial expert David Millar, who were all part of the 2011 team.

They make up the core of the team with Irishman Dan Martin, and will all be crucial to Hesjedal’s success in the hunt for yellow. Martin is enjoying a breakout season having won the French one-day classic Liege-Baston-Liege and Spanish stage-race Volta a Catalunya.

There is one notable exception, American sprinter Tyler Farrar, who is Garmin-Sharp’s only remaining stage winner from 2011. The sprinter hasn’t performed to the same standard this year and this was left off the team, which is built with hill climbers and general classification  riders.

The team is debuting three promising young cyclists with Talansky, Jack Bauer (New Zealand) and Rohan Dennis (Australia).

“We will protect our best general classification options and see how the race shakes out,” said Jonathan Vaughters, Garmin-Sharp CEO.

“Our approach is a little unconventional, but we’ve managed to come up with surprises every year at the Tour and we’re hoping for the same as we head into Corsica,” he said.

“We will aim to place high in the general classification. Ryder’s won (the Giro d’Italia) and placed top-10 in the Tour de France, (Talansky) is young and while it’s his first Tour de France, he is coming off a great season and Martin is having a breakout year.”

Questions do surround Hesjedal, as he’s withdrawn from three straight Grand Tours, having crashed out of the 2012 TdF and 2013 Tour de Suisse, and fallen ill during the 2013 Giro d’Italia.

All indications are that he’s fully recovered from the heavy blow to the neck and head he suffered in Switzerland earlier this month.

Hesjedal was banged up with cuts and contusions to the wrist, hip, shoulder, elbow and both knees.

“I have had great form all year, I had some bad luck with getting sick and crashing but my condition has been great and I am happy and excited to be here now and build on that condition.”

The Tour will be broadcast live each morning on TSN2.

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