Hesjedal erases deficit in time trial to win Giro d’Italia

Ryder Hesjedal wins Giro d'Italia, among Canada's greatest cycling achievements

Ryder Hesjedal won the Giro d'Italia on Sunday

He’s Canada’s top cyclist and for the moment, he’s the top cyclist in the world.

Victoria’s Ryder Hesjedal won the maglia rosa (pink jersey) as the overall winner of the Giro d’Italia on Sunday, following a sensational effort in the final three stages of the 3,500 kilometre, 21 stage race.

Hesjedal started the final day (May 27) in second place, and erased a 31-second deficit behind leader Joaquin Rodriguez in the 28.8 kilometre time trial of Stage 21 which wove through the streets of Milan. Hesjedal was sixth on the day with a time of 34:15, while Rodriguez slipped to second overall, finishing 26th in the time trial at 35:02. Belgium’s Thomas De Gendt was climbed to third overall in the general classification.

The West Shore’s Hesjedal, a Belmont secondary grad, is the first Canadian to win a grand tour, which includes the Giro, Tour de France and Spain’s Vuelta a Espana.

In the initial interviews and photo opportunities following his win, Hesjedal had yet to show much emotion.

“I can’t even describe (the feeling) going,” Hesjedal said during Sunday’s media conference call from Italy. “It’s overwhelming and it’s going to take a while to sink in.”

Hesjedal truly won the race by holding his second-place position, a half-minute back of Rodriguez, through the treacherous mountain climbs of stages 19 and 20 on Friday and Saturday, including Saturday’s seven hour marathon up the snowy slopes of the Stelvio summit. Both days Hesjedal successfully fended off breakaway attacks by leading contenders and previous Giro winners Ivan Basso (2006 and 2010) and Michele Scarponi (2011). Eurosport’s television analysts were impressed, thinking the attempts would slowly bleed Hesjedal’s stores, like being eaten by a pack of piranhas.

Not only did Hesjedal march on undeterred, he nearly stole Stage 19 on Friday from winner Roman Kreuziger, finishing second, just 19 seconds back. Kreuziger was the last man standing from a breakaway group that had held a commanding lead for much of the stage.

Then on Saturday Hesjedal once again completed the demanding final stretch while having to pace the maglia rosa pack, with his rivals drafting his slipstream up the steep climb.

Despite the conspiring by trio of Rodriguez, Basso and Scarponi, as well as others, to bump Hesjedal out Friday and Saturday, the contenders could not.

“We were supposed to drop Ryder Hesjedal but it’s been the opposite,” Rodriguez told the Cycling News on Friday. “Hesjedal gave us a lesson … the Giro is in his hands. If he doesn’t make any (mistakes) he’ll be the winner.”

Rodriquez was right.

“I had to fight for this Giro, (my competitors) weren’t helping me, and it makes this victory even sweeter,” Hesjedal said in response to the mountain stages.

“I had help from my team, who did what they could. But my rivals put the pressure on … as we approached the last part of the Stelvio, my rivals weren’t willing to work because they felt it was my race to lose. It’s tactics and situation, and I had to save my own Giro the last five kms, and that makes it that much sweeter.”

Also sweetening it was multiple kisses with wife Ashley Hofer, and seeing his friend and Tour de Victoria organizer Seamus McGrath and his dad at the Stelvio summit.

As for Hesjedal’s status in July’s Tour de France and this summer’s London Olympics, the Italian champion said he’ll begin putting a plan together soon.

“Once I started to see my name with the previous winners who’ve accomplished this, it will sink in, but I’m just enjoying it right now.”

Earlier this year Hesjedal’s seventh place finish at the 2010 Tour de France was bumped to sixth due to the disqualification of that year’s winner, Alberto Contador, who is also banned two years from international cycling for doping.

Fellow Canadian Svein Tuft finished ninth in the time trial on Sunday, 148th overall among the 157 cyclists to finish.

Cycling in pink

Since 1931, the Giro leaders jersey, known as the maglia rosa, has been pink to reflect the colour of La Gazzetta Dello Sport. Like the Tour de France, the Giro which started in 1909, was created to increase the readership of newspapers.

Ryder ready

Asked repeatedly on Sunday about representing Canada at the upcoming Olympics, Hesjedal responded: “It’s the last thing on my mind right now, I don’t even know the selection date to be honest. But I’ve said all along I want to do it. I don’t see why I shouldn’t be in London, but we’ll see.”

Hesjedal wore the maple leaf at the 2004 Olympics as a mountain biker and at the 2008 Olympics in Beijing, where he finished 54th in the road race and 16th in the road time trial.

 

 

 

 

 

Just Posted

Study moves Oak Bay closer to contraceptive control for problem deer

The report says between 78 and 128 black tail deer live in the affluent beach-side community

Two missing Victoria children found safe

VicPD responded to two separate missing children calls Tuesday

Chim Chim Cher‑ee! Mary Poppins is coming to Oak Bay High

Mary Poppins opens Friday, Feb. 22, at the Dave Dunnet theatre

Crews repair damage after Tuesday night water main break in Langford

Flooding resulted in property damage, forced evacuation from Langford homes

Saanich amalgamation committee holds first meeting

Saanich councillors call for a transparent process to ensure success of study

‘Riya was a dreamer’: Mother of slain 11-year-old Ontario girl heartbroken

Her father, Roopesh Rajkumar, 41, was arrested some 130 kilometres away

Greater Victoria Wanted List for the week of Feb. 19

Greater Victoria Crime Stoppers is seeking the public’s help in locating the… Continue reading

B.C. business groups worry about looming economic decline in wake of NDP budget

The party’s second government budget focused on plenty of spending, business advocates say

Man injured in police shooting near Nelson has died: B.C. police watchdog

The death follows an incident in Bonnington on Feb. 13

Experts urge caution after 10 human-triggered avalanches across B.C.

One man is still stuck after avalanche on south coast

Police seize bottles of grapefruit vodka from wanted man’s snow-pants

The men were pushing two shopping carts with a woman inside

Tonight’s sporting event costs more than the Super Bowl, and Obama is going

Tickets are going for more than $4,000 to watch the Duke - North Carolina basketball game

CRTC report finds ‘misleading, aggressive’ sales tactics used by telecom industry

Report recommends measures to make a fairer situation for consumers

Police dog tracks suspect through wintry Vancouver Island backcountry

Assault suspect arrested after two-hour track by Nanaimo RCMP police dog Jager

Most Read