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Giro d'Italia

Giro notebook stage 15: Directors taking notice of Ryder; Gadret still believes

Giro notebook: Hesjedal's strong performance in the Giro no longer goes under the radar. Gadret still hopes for podium

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LECCO, Italy (VN) – Sport directors throughout the peloton are finally waking up to the threat coming from Ryder Hesjedal (Garmin-Barracuda).

Although Hesjedal ceded ground to Joaquim Rodríguez (Katusha) in Sunday’s uphill finale, and now sits 30 seconds behind the Spaniard, he still holds significant time on Giro favorites Ivan Basso of Liquigas-Cannondale (52 seconds) and Lampre-ISD’s Michele Scarponi (1:06).

“There’s no doubt Hesjedal is good. He proved it Saturday. If people were thinking that he was there due to the team time trial or through luck, well, they saw it yesterday that he’s very strong,” said Movistar director José Luis Jaimerena. “What will he be capable of? Well, we’ve already seen him do good grand tours. We have to include him among the candidates for victory.”

One sport director who knows Hesjedal well is Orica-GreenEdge’s Matt White, who worked with him at Garmin going into the 2011 season. White said the only doubt about Hesjedal’s chances is his ability to hang tough in the grueling climbs still on tap in the coming stages.

“It’s been great for Ryder. In the past, he’s shown he’s good in that third week,” White said. “I just wonder if those steep mountains in the Dolomites will be too much for him. Weather like this is good for him. He’s a strong guy and he’s tough in this type of weather. Whatever happens, he will be top-10.”

Garmin-Barracuda is hoping to nurse Hesjedal through the final week. Garmin sport director Bingen Fernández admits that the team isn’t stacked with fresh legs like the top Italian teams, but he’s hoping Hesjedal’s durability will keep him within range of the final podium.

“If they’re not paying attention now, they’re asleep,” Fernández said of their rivals. “Ryder is going well. We do not have the team like Liquigas or Lampre. We can ride a bit defensively and if Ryder has the legs, he has the legs. He’s more of a diesel, so the longer climbs should suit him better. The final time trial also counts in his favor.”

The final time trial will help Hesjedal regain any lost ground in the final climbs of the Dolomites. Although he’s no TT specialist like Denis Menchov or Levi Leipheimer, he can still expect to be able to take back time on the Italian climbers.

“Ryder has proven he can be strong in a grand tour. If the big teams have overlooked him a bit, they have made a mistake,” said Team Sky’s Dario Cioni. “He will take time in the final time trial. So the big [contenders] need to not only erase the time gaps to him, but also take more time. He’s in a good position.”

Gadret still believes
One of last year’s revelations – John Gadret (Ag2r-La Mondiale) – is still hoping he can revive his GC hopes after a tough start to the 2012 Giro d’Italia.

Gadret was surprising last year, riding to fourth overall (later bumped to third in the wake of Alberto Contador’s disqualification). This year, the former cyclocross star hopes to earn the podium on his own merits.

“I lost a little too much time in the team time trial than I would have liked, but things have gone pretty well,” Gadret told VeloNews. “The coming days will decide everything. All the big leaders will be making their moves to try to take control of the race. I hope to have the legs to respond.”

Gadret made it through this weekend’s pair of climbing stages 15th overall at 3:24 back.

“I hope to do the best I can in the GC. I would love to reach the podium, but I know it will be difficult,” he said. “I am pretty far back, so I need to make up some time and move up on the GC. Of course, that means I must attack.”

Canadians celebrate Ryder’s pink
The other Canadians in this year’s Giro d’Italia are celebrating Ryder Hesjedal’s top performance so far through the first two weeks of the corsa rosa.

Along with Hesjedal, Svein Tuft and Christian Meier (Orica-GreenEdge) and Dominic Rollin (FDJ-BigMat) are representing Canada in this year’s Giro. Tuft said Hesjedal’s success so far through the Giro is catching the top Italian favorites off-guard.

“It’s incredible what he’s doing. I think people wrote him off, but for Ryder to come back to get the jersey, I couldn’t believe it. It’s really impressive what he did (Saturday),” Tuft told VeloNews. “Going into this weekend, the talk had nothing to do with Ryder. Now they better pay attention. He’s making a lot of Canadians proud.”

Meier, racing in his first Giro, said Hesjedal’s run in the pink jersey is indicative of the growing depth of Canadian cycling.

“It’s a sign of how cycling is really taking off in Canada,” Meier told VeloNews. “We have five or six top pros here now in Europe. We have SpiderTech growing. We have Ryder taking the pink jersey. There are so many more people paying attention now to cycling in Canada. It really motivates us even more over here in Europe when we know people are watching back home.”

The jerseys
Stage-winner: Matteo Rabottini (Farnese-Selle Italia) won after riding into an all-day breakaway
Pink leader: Joaquim Rodríguez (Katusha) recaptured the leader’s jersey, now 30 seconds in the lead
Red points: Mark Cavendish (Sky) finished in the gruppetto within the time cut to retain the points jersey
Blue climbers: Rabottini also claims the climber’s jersey
White young: Sergio Henao (Sky) moves ahead of teammate Rigoberto Urán in young rider’s competition

Jury report
Ivan Santaromita (BMC Racing), Enrico Battaglin (Colnago CSF Inox), Lars Bak (Lotto-Belisol): all fined 100 Swiss francs for “mechanical assistance, feeds or behavior of a sport director/rider that damages the image of the sport” (Art. 12.1.040-37)

Fabio Baldato (BMC Racing), Roberto Reverberi (Colnago CSF Inox), Bart Leysen (Lotto-Belisol): sport directors fined 100 CHF each for above infractions

Roberto Reverberi (Colnago CSF Inox) fined 200 CHF for “breach of regulations concerning vehicle movements during the race” (Art. 12.1.040-25)

Stefan Denifl (Vacansoleil) won 1,000 euro primes for winning the special intermediate sprint at Lonate Ceppino.

Stage-winner Matteo Rabottini was also awarded a special plaque in remembrance of Fabio Casartelli on the 20th anniversary of his victory in the 1992 Barcelona Olympic Games.

Mark Cavendish (Sky) will celebrate his 27th birthday on Tuesday. That should give him extra motivation to aim for what would be his 34th grand tour stage victory as well as bolster his lead in the red points jersey competition.

Weather: More rain
More rain and cool temperatures are on tap for Monday’s rest day. Forecasters are calling for more of the same for Tuesday’s 16th stage.

Tomorrow: Rest day
The peloton enjoys its second of two rest days on Monday. Most of the teams head toward Brescia and Largo di Garda on Sunday night and will take easy rides on Monday to stretch the legs. Otherwise, it’s a chance to lick the wounds and prepare for a brutal string of climbing stages looming in the final week.