Giro d'Italia

Hesjedal on Giro struggles: ‘Something’s not right’

Garmin-Sharp rider says he doesn't know what caused him to drop out of GC contention at the Giro

TARVISIO, Italy (VN) — Ryder Hesjedal (Garmin-Sharp) vows to continue in the Giro d’Italia despite losing all hope of defending the pink jersey after forfeiting more than 20 minutes in Tuesday’s first real touch with the mountains.

Hesjedal told VeloNews he couldn’t explain why he has been unable to tap the power he needs to go deep in the critical moments of the stages.

“Something’s not right. When I need to go full gas, my body doesn’t respond. It’s frustrating because I feel fine,” Hesjedal said before the start of Wednesday’s stage 11. “I can stay in the race fine, but since the TT, I cannot go full gas when I need to.”

Hesjedal was already struggling Sunday, when he surprisingly lost contact over a relatively easy fourth-category climb late in the stage to Florence to lose 1:04 to the favorites.

Following Monday’s rest day, Garmin was optimistic that Sunday’s losses were merely a speed bump, and that the ever-steady Canadian would be ready to race for the podium as the Giro turned toward its most decisive stages.

Those hopes dissolved Tuesday when Hesjedal struggled to keep pace over the Cat. 1 Passo Cason di Lanza midway through the stage. Despite a concerted chase with the help of teammates Peter Stetina and Tom Danielson, Hesjedal never regained contact.

Hesjedal lost 20:53 to leader Vincenzo Nibali (Astana) and plummeted out of GC contention to 33rd at 23:45 back.

“It’s been the same since the [stage 8] TT. In stage 9 [to Florence], those last two climbs, I was having some problems. You can chalk it up to anything, having a bad moment, we can get beyond it,” Hesjedal said. “I felt fine on the rest day and through the start of the stage yesterday, but as soon as I had to go hard on the first real climb, my body doesn’t respond. Clearly there’s something wrong. When the body’s not right, it’s not possible to do the maximum effort. I need to try to figure it out and see how it goes.”

Hesjedal was at a loss to explain what was behind it. Despite a flurry of cases of chest colds and bouts of allergies spreading through the peloton, Hesjedal said he did not notice anything outwardly wrong with his health.

“There are things going around. I haven’t been showing the symptoms when the other guys were,” he said. “I thought I was avoiding it. You don’t know what’s underlying in the body. Sometimes when you’re in such good shape, the body can suppress stuff, but clearly when you need to do the effort, and the body just says no. The body is telling you something.”

Coming into the Giro, Hesjedal was confident he could fight for the pink jersey all the way to Brescia. After a solid spring, capped by strong rides at the Ardennes classics, Hesjedal knew he was on track.

Then things started to unravel over the past few days and he’s struggling to understand why. He said he’s not sick, not suffering a bonk, or undertrained.

“It is frustrating. I did everything right,” he said. “I came here in excellent shape. I showed that through the first part of the race. I know what bad legs feel like. Just something’s not right.”

Hesjedal said he vows to stay in the race, in large part to honor the Giro, which he won last year to become the first Canadian to win a grand tour.

“I want to honor the race. We’ll see what that situation is. I will support my team, the race, the fans. The support’s been incredible. I just have to keep going to see what happens,” he said.

Right now, he said he’s not thinking beyond getting through each stage.

“I am not thinking about anything except figuring out what’s going on. The best thing to do is to keep riding my bike and see what happens. It’s frustrating to say the least,” he said.

“That’s bike racing. It’s never perfect. Now it’s about trying to get a picture of what it is. When you’re bad, you bad. You feel bad all the time. You feel bad at 20 kph, but now I’ve only felt bad when I’ve had to make those big efforts. That’s the concern.”