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Giro d'Italia

Giro notebook stage 13: Ryder riding high; Rasmussen denies wrongdoing; Henao poised to do something special

Giro notebook stage 13: Ryder riding high; Rasmussen denies wrongdoing; Henao poised to do something special

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CERVERE, Italy (VN) – Ryder Hesjedal (Garmin-Barracuda) is ready for more in this Giro d’Italia.

Still poised at second at 17 seconds behind Joaquim Rodríguez (Katusha), many in the peloton continue to overlook the Canadian who held the pink jersey for three days.

That’s just fine for Hesjedal, who rolls into the final decisive stages of the Giro in ideal position.

“The favorites are showing their intentions when they do not really need to. I just need to follow that and see where I end up,” Hesjedal told VeloNews before the start of Friday’s stage. “We will see how the weekend starts out, but there’s still a week to go. There is still a lot of time to work things out. It will be hard bike racing. I am expecting some pain and some battling, that’s for sure.”

Hesjedal savored his three-day run in the pink jersey, saying it was one of the highlights of his road-racing career.

“It was great to be in the pink jersey. It was good to be racing at the front and enjoying it. The Giro’s been awesome,” he continued. “I still do not see myself as someone going for the overall win, at the start of the race or even right now, so to spend those days in pink was even more of a success. That was something that I was looking to accomplish here and would never trade that for potentially having a bit more energy late in the race.”

So far, Hesjedal has avoided major mishaps, crashes or time losses that can handicap his GC ambitions. This weekend’s pair of uphill finales will go a long way toward settling the GC picture. He admitted carrying the pink jersey required an extra effort, but one that was more than worth it.

“I am feeling good. I felt fine (Thursday) on those climbs. I have been trying to recover and conserve as much energy as possible since being in the pink jersey,” he said. “You never know what [the pink jersey] cost me. You have some more obligations and the team rode great. They did a good job for keeping me as safe as possible and trying not to lose energy being at the front. I think we did the best we possibly could. We will see at the end of the Giro if it cost me or not.”

>> Henao ready to pounce

Sergio Henao (Sky) is a name that many people might not know just yet, but it’s only a matter of time before the 24-year-old Colombian will burst into the spotlight.

The punchy climber is poised for big things, and he’s making his grand tour debut with the goal of not only making it to Milano, but making an impression along the way.

“The truth is I feel very good in this Giro,” Henao told VeloNews. “The sensations are good up to now. The terrain in the coming days will suit me even better.”

Henao is among a flock of new young Colombians making their mark in the European peloton. So far this season, he was close to a win at the Vuelta al País Vasco, third at the Ibardin summit en route to 13th overall. He was equally consistent in the Ardennes, with 21st at Amstel Gold, 14th at Flèche Wallonne and 29th at Liège.

He’s at the Giro to help compatriot and Sky teammate Rigaberto Uran as well as take his chances in the mountains.

“Of course I would like to do something special in this Giro,” he continued. “We Colombians, we love the long, hard climbs. I am hoping in the final week to be a protagonist.”

>>Rasmussen: “I didn’t do anything wrong”

Alex Rasmussen (Garmin-Barracuda) is laughing at all the attention he’s been receiving since Frank Schleck (RadioShack-Nissan) blamed him for his crash in Wednesday’s stage at Montecatini Terme.

Schleck blamed Rasmussen for causing him to hit the deck and causing him to lose 46 seconds on GC on the otherwise routine transition stage. The big Dane told VeloNews that if anyone’s to blame for Schleck’s crash, it isn’t him.

“He’s just pissed off at me. I didn’t do anything wrong. He ran into me from behind. I was already kind of taking it easy and then – boom! – from the back. He hit my wheel and my rear derailleur came off,” Rasmussen told em>VeloNews at the start of Friday’s stage. “I was braking for other people to come around me and I got rammed from behind. There was nothing I did wrong.”

The quiet Dane suddenly found himself in the middle of a media storm at the Giro when RadioShack-Nissan released quotes in a team press release. Schleck said Rasmussen was like “a wall” in the bunch.

Rasmussen is just taking the drama with a shrug of his big burly shoulders.

“Frank’s word ranks a lot more than mine internationally, so when he says something, people believe him. I can do nothing but say that I didn’t do anything wrong,” he said. “I am not upset about it. In the heat of the moment, he is just probably looking for an excuse and that’s it.”

Rasmussen vows to stay in the Giro all the way to Milano, first to help Garmin teammate Ryder Hesjedal and then take aim for the final-day time trial

“I kind of fucked it up on the team time trial. Other than that day, it’s been really good. I am hoping to keep Ryder up there in GC and then the final TT,” he said. “I was second last year so I hope to win it. That is my goal and that motivates me to finish the Giro. There are going to be some hard days coming up.”

The jerseys
Stage-winner: Mark Cavendish (Sky) wins third stage of this year’s Giro
Pink leader: Joaquim Rodríguez (Katusha) maintained his 17-second lead to Ryder Hesjedal
Red points: Mark Cavendish (Sky) continues to hold the points jersey
Blue mountain: Michel Golas (Omega Pharma-Quick Step) defended lead after becoming the first Polish rider to wear the KoM jersey in Giro on Thursday
White young: Damiano Caruso (Liquigas-Cannondale) will carry young rider’s jersey into this weekend’s climbing stages

Weather: Chance of mountain showers
Cooler temperatures are in store as the Giro turns toward Cervinia high in the Italian Alps. Highs will be in the high 50sF, with SE winds of 10 to 15mph – meaning possible tail-crosswinds for the final climb – with a 30-percent chance of afternoon showers under partly cloudy skies.

Tomorrow’s stage: first major mountain stage
The 95th Giro changes gears for the first major mountaintop finale of the 2012 edition. The 206km 14th stage from Cherasco to Cervinia features two major climbs in the final 40km. The route rolls north across the flats of Torino before turning into the mountains with the Cat. 1 Col de Joux (22.4km at 5.6 percent) at 175km, followed by a technical descent to Chatillon.

The final hump to the first-category summit at Cervinia (27km at 5.5 percent) is not terribly steep, but its length will likely see some GC favorites ceding ground that will be ever more difficult to recover in the final week of racing.