Get access to everything we publish when you join VeloNews or Outside+.
CERVINIA, Italy (VN) — Subtract the time Ryder Hesjedal (Cannondale-Garmin) lost in a complicated and disappointing first week of the Giro d’Italia and he slots into fourth, just behind Astana’s Mikel Landa.
But hypotheticals don’t win bike races.
That first week saw Hesjedal, winner of the Giro in 2012, lose precious seconds in the opening team time trial, then get blasted into GC oblivion by a lumpy finish in La Spezia, the same finish that saw teammate Davide Formolo take victory. He lost nearly five minutes on a stage that should have been a wash for the overall.
Looking back, with only that single stage standing between the Canadian and a potential podium, is he frustrated?
“Not really,” he said after Friday’s stage, in his characteristic measured manner.
“Everything happens in the end; maybe I would’ve lost no time and been out in a crash in the second week. There’s so many things [that could happen],” he said.
“I know I’m repeating it a lot, but I won this race. If I hadn’t have done that, and I knew I had the legs to be on the podium I could have beat myself up. I’m happy to have the legs to be here in the front of the race the third week with this field,” he said.
A stage win would be a consolation, of course, and Hesjedal has been closer more times over the last week than any other rider. He’s been in day-long breakaways, including over the Mortirolo; he’s attacked the favorites early and often. His aggressiveness has paid off, too, as he’s clawed his way up a few spots each stage.
He sits in seventh following Friday’s finish, 12:05 behind Contador but only 1:18 outside of Leopold Konig’s (Sky) fifth place.
He was close again on Friday, attacking at the base of the final climb only to be caught by a charging Fabio Aru (Astana). Hesjedal finished second on the day, 28 seconds off Aru and 42 seconds up on the rest of the leaders.
The proximity to victory was particularly painful.
“I still need to get over coming that close today,” said the hirsute Canadian. “The field is strong, Astana is unreal, riding all day like that. I’m just happy to be up in the front.”
“I messed up, I shouldn’t have tried to stay with Aru when he went. That completely exploded me,” he said. “I could still recover and hold him. If I didn’t go in the red to stay with him, I could have easily got on terms with him. It’s frustrating.”
With only the final mountain stage left, an incredibly difficult 200 kilometers over the Colle delle Finestre and Sestriere, Hesjedal has one more shot at the redemption he’s been seeking since stage 4.