Ryder Hesjedal, sixth overall, still riding high at the Tour de France

The Canadian is sixth overall, just ten seconds behind Contador

After finishing stage 8 Sunday atop the difficult climb to Avoriaz, Ryder Hesjedal was pleased with his performance, placing 14th on the day and slotting into sixth place overall, 1:11 behind new race leader Cadel Evans, and only 10 seconds down on defending champion Alberto Contador.

It was Hesjedal’s best-ever ride on a mountain stage at the Tour, and it firmly establishes him as leader of Garmin-Transitions following the withdrawal of Christian Vande Velde with a broken collarbone last Monday.

Asked about his fight for a high GC position, Hesjedal said, “It was hard, really hard. The first big climb, the pace was really hard, and the selection was already small, but I felt pretty good. You know, once I made it up that climb I really focused on the last one.”

“I felt pretty good, but halfway up I just had to settle into my own rhythm, and I think that was good as I only lost a minute and a bit. As much as I wanted to stay with the Contador group, I knew my limits.”

Commenting on the stage, Garmin team director Matt White said, “It’s safe to say that Ryder has done some of the rides of his life here, and today was no exception.”

Complementing his teammates, Hesjedal told VeloNews, “Everyone was great. That climb (the Ramaz) was really hard. I was the only one that made it over, but everyone kept me in good position before that climb, and Johan (Van Summeren) was there for a while … It was really hard and there were not too many guys with teammates up there.”

Asked about the moment Lance Armstrong fell off the pace midway up the Col de la Ramaz, Hesjedal said, “Unfortunately for him that was a really bad moment and I saw him blow. It was a surprise, especially as I was one of the guys doing the dropping, but that was enough motivation to get me through that last part. He crashed today, obviously. It was a tough day.”

While many others were suffering on another day of 90-degree temperatures Hesjedal was not overly affected, partly because he does his pre-season training in Hawaii. “I don’t really feel the heat, “ he said. “I think that it’s one thing that’s obviously working for me. I normally do well in this heat, so it doesn’t affect me too badly.”

White later said, “Losing Christian was obviously a negative for the team, but it provided Ryder with an opportunity to step up into a GC role — and he’s done it. I’m really proud of what he’s accomplished here already and, for now, we’ll keep taking it day by day.”

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