Ryder Hesjedal paces the lead group down the major descent in the final kilometers of Stage 3 on Monday at the Giro d'Italia.

Ryder Hesjedal paces the lead group down the major descent in the final kilometers of Stage 3 on Monday at the Giro d'Italia.

Ryder Hesjedal in contention after Stage 4 at Giro d’Italia

Ryder Hesjedal is hanging with the lead group, 34 seconds back of the Maglia Rosa

Four stages in and Ryder Hesjedal’s experience is on display at the Giro d’Italia.

Hesjedal finished with the lead group in Stage 4 today (May 7), a rain-soaked finish in Serra San Bruno, and is now 34 seconds back of the leader, tied for fifth overall. The Maglia Rosa currently belongs to Luca Paolini of Italy, who made a successful break with five kilometres left on Stage 3.

So far the 33-year-old Victoria native Hesjedal is in good standing to defend his 2012 Giro title.

Hesjedal showed great strength on Monday’s Stage 3, chasing down a breakaway attempt in the final kilometres with no support from the lead group. Teammate Christian Vande Velde, who is expected to shoulder a lot of the support for Hesjedal this year,

had earlier been cut off by a motorbike carrying a camera.

This year’s field is much stronger than last with 2011 Tour de France winner Cadel Evans, who is 42 seconds back, and 2012 Tour de France winner Bradley Wiggins, who is tied with Hesjedal at 34 seconds back.

Stage 5 goes Wednesday, a 203 km leg from Cosenza to Matera.