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Hesjedal pulls out of Romandie for final Giro prep

Ryder Hesjedal (Garmin-Sharp) pulled out of the Tour de Romandie on Friday, but there’s no reason to raise the alarms.

The defending Giro d’Italia champ said it was a planned exit to give him a full week of recovery after an intense spring to put the finishing touches on his defense of the pink jersey.

With weather worsening Hesjedal didn’t want to take any chances, and he pulled the plug on Romandie to take a breather before the onslaught of the Giro begins May 4 in Naples.

“Stopped today to give myself a week [until] the Giro,” Hesjedal posted on Twitter. “Same as last year, except I feel better on the bike.”

Last year, Hesjedal pulled the plug on Romandie in stage 5, and then barnstormed through the Giro to become the first Canadian to win a grand tour.

So far in 2013, Hesjedal has all but copied his approach to the Giro as last year. Last year, he raced the Tour Down Under and Strade Bianche, two races he skipped in 2013, returning instead with the Volta a Catalunya in March.

His schedule from there has been the same, with the Vuelta a País Vasco (Tour of the Basque Country), the Ardennes classics, and an abbreviated run through Romandie.

Hesjedal has been winless so far in 2013, but as he indicated, he looks even stronger than last year. While he hasn’t posted any major individual results, he’s buried himself for his teammates, helping Daniel Martin win both the Catalunya tour and Liège.

The Canadian said his sensations are even better than in 2012.

“I’m building for the Giro, and I could stay with all the big moves, so that’s a good sign,” Hesjedal told VeloNews at last Sunday’s Liège-Bastogne-Liège. “I’m getting ready for the Giro. That’s what counts.”

Hesjedal is quietly confident he will be able to handle new challenges from the likes of Bradley Wiggins (Sky) and Vincenzo Nibali (Astana).

“Intimidated? No. I showed myself last year. I am going to focus on myself and do what I can do,” he told VeloNews earlier this year. “At the end of the day, we’re all going to show up at the start line to try to win. The other stuff you cannot control.”

When pressed if he should be considered the No. 1 favorite as the defending champion or whether that honor should fall to Tour champion Wiggins, Hesjedal said, “That’s for other people to decide.”

“I do feel the pressure, it’s exciting,” he said. “I love the Giro. It was an incredible experience to win. It’s the biggest thing I’ve ever done and I am really proud I was able to do that, day-in and day-out. I want to use that in everything I do from now on.”

After the Giro, Hesjedal will take aim for the Tour. Last year, he crashed out in the first week, but said he was feeling better than the Giro. If he can make it all the way to the end of July, Hesjedal could be a favorite for the Tour podium as well.

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