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BENEVENTO, Italy (VN) — Ryder Hesjedal’s disappointment over losing time on his GC rivals in the Giro d’Italia on Tuesday had not yet abated by the time stage 5 was over on Wednesday. But the 35 year-old Canadian and 2012 Giro champion, is reassured by his brewing form and confident that he will be able to make the best of every opportunity that comes.
After Wednesday’s 233km race from Praia a Mare to Benevento, Hesjedal, who on Tuesday lost 38 seconds to Dutch race leader Tom Dumoulin (Giant – Alpecin) and 37 seconds to most other overall favorites, is still 27th overall at 1 minute 17 seconds to Dumoulin, while the other contenders are between 26 and 54 seconds behind the Dutchman overall.
“[Tuesday] was a complicated stage,” Hesjedal told VeloNews on Wednesday while warming down after stage 5 on the turbo trainer outside his Trek – Segafredo team bus.
“I’m just extremely happy to be feeling the way I am feeling,” he said. “It’s not the easiest process to go for the GC in a grand tour.
“I’m not getting any younger. It was a big challenge for me this year, and I am sticking to my beliefs and my plan, but as you go along you always … Sometimes you get nervous.”
Hesjedal said he was buoyed by his stage 1 time trial result. He placed 41st on the stage, 33 seconds to winner Dumoulin, and only 14 seconds behind Italian Vincenzo Nibali (Astana).
He also finished at the same time as Cannondale’s Rigoberto Urán and seven seconds ahead of Sky’s Mikel Landa.
“Right from the moment, from the first day, compared to how I’ve been the last month and half of racing …” Hesjedal said. “I am extremely pleased how the form has come and how I believe it will continue to improve. I’m not sure of it, but that is the idea. The feeling I have, the way the body has responded — I have trimmed up, the power I have. It has all come perfectly which is not easy by any means to get.”
Hesjedal did not go as far as to say he was feeling as good as he ever has, but believes he’s equipped to leave a mark. “The numbers are really good, the feeling is good, and if I look at my track record and how I come through the racing … yeah, for sure I am optimistic,” Hesjedal said. “You may get a little more frustrated because you have that feeling on a day like [on Tuesday], but what are you going to do? [Jean-Christophe] Péraud didn’t even make it out of Holland. Anything can happen.
“I have to look at the bright side. I can’t get worried about seconds in bike races anymore. There’s a lot more going on.”
Hesjedal is a reputed strong finisher in the grand tours, but he said he will be alert for opportunities before the last week.
As such, he’s concerned Sunday’s 40.5km, undulating stage 9 time trial in Chianti is too early in the race. Last year’s long time trial was on stage 14 from Treviso to Valdobbiadene over 59.4km. He placed 16th and rose five places overall to 15th before finishing fifth to winner Alberto Contador (Tinkoff) who is not in this year’s Giro.
“I have had good time trials,” Hesjedal said. “There are always better time triallists out there better than me.
“Hopefully, it is not too early in the race for me. I was a little worried about that. Last year was a lot better for me. It was very long and at the end of two weeks. That showed in the results. You just have to limit the damage. Maybe I can take some seconds back on others. Then the uphill one [on stage 15] is even better for pure climbers with 10km of climbing.”
Pressed on whether he felt the overall race will unravel slowly before exploding in the third mountainous week, Hesjedal said he is wary of Dumoulin’s intent, despite the Dutchman saying he is here racing for stage wins, rather than overall.
“No one seems to really know what he is trying to do,” Hesjedal said. “I was over six minutes [down] this time last year. We are going to look day by day. Now it’s been about staying out of trouble, trying to not make mistakes, get days in the legs. I have to look at the bright side and keep rolling.”