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Giro d'Italia

Hesjedal: ‘Down, but not out’ in Giro

Canadian Ryder Hesjedal knows his best days are to come in the Giro's final week, and his Cannondale-Garmin team gives him full support

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FIUGGI, Italy (VN) — Canadian Ryder Hesjedal (Cannondale-Garmin) could do well to take advantage of Fiuggi’s famous water given his bad luck so far in the 2015 Giro d’Italia.

The Acqua di Fiuggi has been known for centuries for its natural healing properties. Pope Boniface VIII and Michelangelo both praised the water that flows through volcanic deposits in the nearby mountains, and royalty around Europe used to request bottles shipped to them.

Hesjedal — royalty in his own right thanks to his 2012 Giro d’Italia win, the first Canadian to do so — sits 30th overall at 6:11 minutes after seven stages, before Friday’s long stage finishing in Fiuggi, south of Rome. With two weeks remaining, including a summit finish Saturday and the Alpine stages of the third week, he remains optimistic for a podium place.

“I’ve been racing a long time; you have to be realistic. Obviously, six minutes is a lot at this stage in the race, but you never know,” Hesjedal told VeloNews among fans and rivals at the start.

“I’m always analyzing and looking. Clearly, the other guys have showed their level. It’s going to be a tough battle for them, but if you can come away with a top five in the Giro then it’s a big result. I never set out for any day and say it’s impossible.”

The “other guys” include the current top-three overall: Spaniard Alberto Contador (Tinkoff-Saxo), Italian Fabio Aru (Astana) at two seconds, and Australian Richie Porte (Sky) at 20.

Contador made the first blow when his Tinkoff-Saxo team slotted into second overall in the opening day’s time trial in Sanremo. Aru made the second one when his turquoise train ripped apart the stage to La Spezia.

Hesjedal and his green-and-black Cannondale team lost 46 seconds to Contador in stage 1 and 5:03 in La Spezia. The only consolation was that young Italian talent and teammate, Davide Formolo escaped solo to win the hellish stage to La Spezia’s port, just south along coast from Cinque Terre.

In those hills above Cinque Terre, Hesjedal lost big when the group split through a feed zone and Astana twisted the throttle.

“You don’t expect to see the group go down to 15 riders with 50K to go,” Hesjedal, 34, added.

“I was off the back, and I fought hard for quite awhile, but I could not keep up with a group like that on that last circuit.”

Hesjedal showed off that same fight that won him the 2012 Giro when he attacked on the stage to Abetone on Wednesday. At the same time, Italian teammate Formolo drifted backward. The signal was clear: Cannondale is working for Hesjedal, not 22-year-old Formolo.

“Ryder is the GC guy, Formolo is a young guy, and we have to see how he improves,” sport director Bingen Fernández said in the shade of the team’s bus.

“Davide’s there, but it’s still day by day with no pressure on him. He’s an incredible rider who can win a stage [like] La Spezia’s the other day, being in the front and holding 30 seconds over the chase.”

“That’s why I’m here, to fight. I’m a winner of this race. I want to perform here and lead the team,” Hesjedal added.

“We have an Italian guy, a huge talent, and it’s a dream come true for him. So the momentum’s great, we can’t look back and dwell.

“I’m going to keep fighting, I know I have good legs. I historically perform best in the third week, and that’s where the biggest differences can be made. The race overall is no foregone conclusion.”

With that, Hesjedal rolled down the road toward the famous fountains of Fiuggi and the remaining two weeks of the 2015 Giro d’Italia.