Hesjedal fourth on Tourmalet, feeling stronger as Tour de France continues
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Friday, July 23, 2010

Hesjedal fourth on Tourmalet, feeling stronger as Tour de France continues

by Conal Andrews at 7:36 AM EST   comments
Categories: Pro Cycling, Tour de France
Canadian believes he can defend eighth place overall

Ryder HesjedalOne of the most surprising performances on yesterday’s final mountain stage of the Tour was the superb showing by Ryder Hesjedal, who proved to be one of the strongest on the Col du Tourmalet. He was part of the chasing group behind race leader Alberto Contador and stage winner Andy Schleck, and eventually clipped away near the top to nab fourth place on the stage.

He crossed the line one minute 27 seconds behind Schleck and Contador, and explained afterwards that part of the reason for his strong performance was knowing his limits and not trying to go with the yellow jersey contenders when they kicked clear approximately ten kilometres from the line. Several others tried to do so and got burned as a result.

“Those guys went and everyone wants to follow but I was just content to be around guys that were close to me,” he explained, showing the importance of not going too far into the red on a climb as tough as that. “I stayed in the group there, felt good in the last part and gave it everything.”

Hesjedal said that on the rest day, he felt his legs were surprisingly fresh and so he started yesterday’s stage determined to ride strongly. Everything went to plan - it was his best performance on this year’s Tour, and proves that he is not fading as the race progresses. In fact, the opposite is true. “I feel like I’m getting stronger, so a few more days and we’ll be happy in Paris,” he said afterwards.

The Canadian has been Garmin Transitions’ GC rider ever since team leader Christian Vande Velde dropped out of the race. He’s risen to the task, steadily advancing in the general classification. Yesterday’s performance saw him move from tenth to eighth in the general classification, and he is now almost a minute clear of his next-closest rival, Roman Kreuziger. Chris Horner (RadioShack) is next in line, one minute and 19 seconds back.

Today’s stage to Bordeaux is expected to be one for the sprinters, and so the final GC placings are almost certain to be settled in tomorrow’s 52 kilometre time trial to Pauillac. Hesjedal has indicated that he is confident of defending his GC position.

The 29 year old has had an excellent season, netting second in the Amstel Gold Race behind Philippe Gilbert (Omega Pharma Lotto), fifth in the Montepaschi Strade Bianche, sixth in the Volta a Catalunya, ninth in Flèche Wallonne and twelfth in Liège-Bastogne-Liège. He also won a stage and finished fifth overall in the Tour of California.

He was 48th overall in last year’s Tour, but came into this year’s race with greater self-belief. Vande Velde’s misfortune handed him the opportunity to ride for himself and he responded straight away, taking fourth on the stage to Arenberg and riding consistently since then.

Team leader Jonathan Vaughters believes that he can improve in the years ahead, making it possible he will get closer to the final podium in the Tour. Canada’s best performance to date in the Tour was the fourth place achieved by Steve Bauer in 1988.


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