Ryder Hesjedal “flying under the radar” at this year’s Tour de France couldn’t be a better scenario for the Victoria cyclist.
The Belmont secondary graduate and 2012 Giro d’Italia winner was one of six Garmin-Sharp riders sitting 17 seconds back of the maillot jaune (yellow jersey) after Stage 4 Team Time Trial in Nice today (July 2), 16th overall.
Garmin-Sharp had hoped for better. A win would have put the team’s current leader David Millar (13th) in yellow, just as Garmin did in 2011 with Thor Hushovd. But this year’s squad is built around the climbing guys, without the time trial experts such as TTT winner Orica GreenEDGE, which features Langley’s Svein Tuft, an eight-time Canadian TT champion making his Tour debut.
All is good for Hesjedal, however, as Garmin-Sharp completed the 25 km TTT route in 26 minutes and 13 seconds, sixth among teams. The Tour continues Wednesday on Stage 5, a mostly flat 228-km route that should favour a sprinter’s finish despite its length.
“He’s sliding through and staying under the radar and that happens with Ryder a lot. He’s often underrated,” said Seamus McGrath, former Olympic cycling teammate of Hesjedal’s and organizer with Ryder Hesjedal’s Tour de Victoria.
Hesjedal has managed to hang among the elites and stay within striking distance of first place despite having crashed (or crashed into, some might say) to the pavement once already – one of the many follies from Stage 1 of the 2013 Tour de France.
Yet few, if any Grand Tour winners, can escape media attention the way Hesjedal does, McGrath said.
The plus side of taking a secondary position to leading Garmin-Sharp rider David Millar, at least for the time being, is that Hesjedal’s not being bothered by the press so much before and after the stages.
“The yellow jersey guys will say it’s a lot of work off the bike, so it’s a chance for (Hesjedal) to be more relaxed,” McGrath added.
Hesjedal also signed a recent two year contract extension with Garmin-Sharp which means less worries about where he’ll compete next year, which is a reality for many TdF cyclists.
“It should all give him tranquility and a positive mindset at this point in the (Tour de France),” McGrath said.
Of course, a stage win or even a sniff of the yellow jersey once the Tour reaches the mountains and Hesjedal will begin to attract more attention from media and opposing riders alike.
Had Hesjedal not been crashed into with a few kilometres left on Stage 1, he might have been worse off when about 24 cyclists went down at the front of the peloton a few minutes later at nearly 60 km an hour.
For it’s 100th anniversary the Tour de France has augmented its route, including the removal of the prologue. Perhaps ‘bus-gate,’ a comical but serious incident in which Orica GreenEDGE’s team bus wedged itself up against the archway at the finish line of Stage 1, and a major wipeout that downed the top sprinters during an abbreviated sprint, was enough to make TdF organizers reconsider the benefits of a prologue, if not to calm the jittery cyclists and team bus drivers.