After making the selection with the yellow jersey group over the top of the hors categorie Port de Pailhères climb, Ryder Hesjedal settled into his own tempo on the final climb up to the finish at Ax 3 Domaines. In doing so, he finished ahead of four big names ahead of him on GC — Liquigas’ Ivan Basso and Roman Kreuziger, Astana’s Alexander Vinokourov and Caisse d’Eparnge’s Luis Leon Sanchez.
Hesjedal finished 12th on the day, just behind RadioShack’s Levi Leipheimer.
Was he pleased with his result? “Big time.”
“I was ahead of a lot of guys I wanted to be ahead of. Mission accomplished,” he said after the finish. “Especially after what I did on stage 12, even stage 3. I don’t know how many guys are going to be ahead of me on GC that have been going in all-day breakaways. I’m still feeling good, and we’ll just keep it going.”
Hesjedal got into a long-range move on stage 12 with 17 other riders, and made the final selection with Vinokourov and RadioShack’s Andreas Klöden that was only swept up in the final kilometers of the climb to the finish in Mende. On stage 3, Hesjedal attacked solo out of a breakaway on the cobbles. He was caught by the rest of the breakway, though, and finished fourth.
“I’m really happy today. I was a bit scared after the last two stages. Yesterday was hard; it just never stopped. It was singlefile all day. I could feel my legs after that, and I was a bit nervous for today,” he said. “But after we started climbing, I settled in, and I was comfortable as could be. And I showed that on the last climb.”
When the attacks started flying out of the yellow jersey group, Hesjedal didn’t put himself in the red by trying to follow.
“I just ride my own speed. I know what I can do,” he said. “Today was perfect. I didn’t even worry about the guys in the front. I was even able to pick up the speed the whole way up. I was really pleased with what I was able to do at the end there, and distance myself from some guys who are close to me.”
Hesjedal put 30 seconds on Basso, 63 seconds on Kreuziger, and finished right in front of Vinokourov. Another 25 seconds between now and Paris would put Hesjedal into the top 10.