NANCY, France (VN) — Ryder Hesjedal headed to Paris two weeks earlier than he had hoped.
Instead of starting the seventh stage of the Tour de France on Saturday, the reigning Giro d’Italia champion drove to the French capital to catch a flight to Spain.
Hesjedal’s dreams of the Giro-Tour were as battered and bruised as his body after a tumble in Friday’s high-speed crash 25km from the finish line.
Speaking to VeloNews by telephone, the Canadian said he will never know what could have happened.
“It’s devastating,” Hesjedal told VeloNews. “My Tour’s over. It’s not the way I expected it to end. It’s brutal, because I was optimistic I could do a good ride.”
Just how good, no one will ever know.
Hesjedal largely avoided trouble through the first week only to become one of the major victims in Friday’s crash, during what was the last sprint stage of the first week, just 25km from the line.
Hesjedal said he could not speculate whether he could have come within range of pulling off the first Giro-Tour double since Marco Pantani last accomplished the feat in 1998.
“I know the Giro-Tour double was hard, but I felt even better here at the Tour than I did at the Giro,” he continued. “That’s the most frustrating thing. I felt good. I have that form but I cannot use it. The crash was a worst-case scenario. That’s it — end of story.”
Hesjedal said he was caught right in the middle of Friday’s horrific crash and there was nothing he could do.
There’s been a lot of speculation about what caused the crash, and Hesjedal said he had his own ideas, but did not want to publicly declare what he saw in the bunch on Friday.
“The peloton just exploded,” he said. “In a flash, there were broken bikes, bodies flying, people falling on top of me. We were together as a team and when you get stuck in that crap, you all get it. We all went down at full speed. There was no time to react.”
Hesjedal slammed heavily on his left side, suffering cuts and scrapes to his knee, arm and shoulder as well as deep muscle bruising to his hip.
Hesjedal tested the leg Saturday morning, but the team decided he risked worsening his injuries if he stayed in the race.
With the London Olympic Games just three weeks off, plus the Canadian races in Quebec and Montreal, Hesjedal and Garmin-Sharp decided the prudent thing to do was to abandon.
Despite being so banged up he could barely walk, Hesjedal said that was not an easy decision to make.
“I never like to give up, but we had to make a decision that makes sense. It would have been tough mentally to keep going when I could not get better,” he said.
“After winning the Giro, I do not want to give up the Tour like this. It’s never easy leaving the Tour, especially when you have the No. 1 bib for the team.”
Hesjedal was scheduled to fly from Paris to Spain on Saturday afternoon to return to his European home base in Girona.
He will stay there to recover and train until traveling to London for a shot at the Olympic Games. Only then will he return to Canada.
“I have to try to look at the bright side. It could have been a lot worse and I still have the Olympics and the Canadian races on my plate,” he said. “The team is supporting me in giving a chance to recover to give myself the best chance to represent my country.”
Hesjedal said it’s too early to speculate about how his schedule might look for 2013, but following his breakthrough Giro win this year, you get the feeling that the Canadian has some unfinished business with the Tour.