Olympic time trial: Hesjedal and Hughes provide decorated potential for Canada
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Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Olympic time trial: Hesjedal and Hughes provide decorated potential for Canada

by Kyle Moore at 7:46 PM EST   comments
Categories: Pro Cycling, Olympics
Giro d’Italia champion and multiple Olympic medalist with podium chances

Ryder HesjedalNeither of their names are likely to be mentioned at the very top of the list of favourites for the men’s and women’s Olympic time trial on Wednesday, but Canada’s Ryder Hesjedal and Clara Hughes enter the race looking to build on their own individual successes.

Hesjedal thrilled his nation in May by taking the Maglia Rosa from Joaquim Rodriguez in the final time trial of the Giro d’Italia. The confident, wispy Garmin-Sharp rider could be considered an outside shot at a medal in the London TT. And Hughes is looking to become the most decorated Canadian Olympian of all time, as she would stand alone with seven medals if she is able to pick one up in the time trial Wednesday.

Hughes has six career Olympic medals, earned in long-track speed skating and cycling events. The flag bearer for Canada in the 2010 winter games in Vancouver, Hughes is the only Olympian to have earned multiple medals in both the summer and winter Olympics.

For Hesjedal, the ride comes with a different kind of pressure and a bit of a different environment, according to Canadian cycling coach Gord Fraser.

“It's a little bit different scenario — a one-day, one-off as opposed to the last day of a three-week stage race,” Fraser told the Winnipeg Free Press. “You have a little bit different legs, so to speak. But I think he can take great confidence from his time trial in the Giro. Obviously there was a lot riding on that time trial. But it's the Olympic Games. So there's a lot riding on the Olympics as well. Hopefully, because he's had a dry run with that type of pressure, that will bode well for him in the Olympic Games.”

Hesjedal is the 17th of 37 men to start the London time trial, so his middle-of-the-pack start time should allow for several solid times to already be on the board, but with most of the big names still to come. Fraser mentioned the large crowds that are likely to line the roads again for the time trial as another factor riders will encounter, along with the usual anguish of the effort.

“Whoever can adapt to that kind of new stimulus and still hit their lines really well, that will probably be the little edge they need to move up a place or get into the medals,” Fraser added. “[The course has a lot of stretches] where it's just ‘shut your brain off, suffer as hard as you can.’ It's a strictly power-type course. I think if [Ryder] executes his plan and he really pushes himself, he can do a good ride.”

Clara HughesAfter winning two bronze medals in the 1996 Summer Olympics in Atlanta, in both the time trial and road race, the 39-year-old Hughes is hoping to pick up more hardware in London. She came back to cycling after ending her speed skating career in the fall of 2010, announcing her intentions to ride in the London games. On Sunday in the road race, Hughes put in an active race and finished 32nd.

“It was epic. It was awesome, though,” Hughes enthused after the road race. “There were so many people on the course. We were wondering if people would come out and watch the women's race, so it was amazing. I can't say enough about the support in the pouring rain.”

After switching back and forth between sports throughout her career, Hughes continues to impress her coach, and has time trialed well since her comeback in 2010.

“She is incredible," remarked Canadian cycling coach Denise Kelly. "For her to be able to keep her focus for this many years, at this level, I really don't know what to compare it to. It is truly, truly phenomenal. She's professional in every sense of the word when she approaches this sport. She wouldn't be here if she didn't think she had a chance.”

Hughes goes off in the TT fifth from the end, in the midst of all the primary favourites.


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