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It was another case of good legs and bad luck for Ryder Hesjedal on Sunday as the Cannondale-Garmin rider was forced to chase alone up the Madonna Di Campiglio after a late crash split the heavily reduced Giro d’Italia peloton.
Hesjedal, who won the 2012 Giro, clawed his way up to 13th overall on stage 15, 11:17 back from Alberto Contador (Tinkoff-Saxo), by launching off the front of a chase group at the base of the day’s final climb. The peloton had split following a crash that Tinkoff’s Michael Rogers blamed on Jurgen Van Den Broeck (Lotto-Soudal).
“I was up near the front, I could see the pink jersey and the Astana guys no problem,” Hesjedal said of the incident after the finish, pulling on a long sleeve jersey for the short descent down to his team’s rest day hotel. “I just came around a corner and I could tell guys had gone off the road. But I was still on guys’ wheels, can’t really see, then all of a sudden there was quite a big gap.
“When we got off the descent there was a gap there, and it was a little unorganized. When those guys are going fully committed up front … we never regained contact.”
Hesjedal attacked out of the chase group and pulled his advantage out to over a minute. But he never caught on to the front of the split, eventually finishing 12th on the day, 3:11 behind stage winner Mikel Landa (Astana).
“It was one of those (climbs), it’s pretty steady, I’d have liked to been playing up in the front today. I think I had the legs to do that,” Hesjedal said. “I did the whole climb by myself.”
The split left race leader Alberto Contador adrift in a sea of Astana jerseys. The team had used its men early in the stage and left Rogers for the finale, but he was also caught behind the crash.
The Tinkoff-Saxo riders left in the second group were not capable of bringing an Astana-led front group back.
“They couldn’t do anything,” Hesjedal said. “No one in that group was going to help.”
Sunday’s stage also saw Cannondale’s young Italian phenom Davide Formolo have his first off day. Formolo, just 22 and already a Giro stage winner, finished 8 minutes down and is now 21st.
Teammate Tom Danielson succumbed to a knee injury that has plagued him since a crash on stage 2, and pulled out of the race.
Hesjedal’s effort did pull him within spitting distance of the top 10, with his preferred climbs still ahead. He sits 1:14 out of 10th, and less than five minutes outside the top five. With a hard week of racing ahead, anything is possible, but Hesjedal wouldn’t set any particular place as his goal.
“I’m just going to ride well,” he said. “At the end of the day you can look and say yeah, it if you didn’t lose that silly time, blah blah blah, but it’s about the performance and the actual result doesn’t always reflect that.
“We’ll see at the end of the race, but I already know I feel good and consolation is I’ve won this race before.”