Ryder Hesjedal (Garmin-Transitions) avoided the finish-line fireworks Thursday and quietly rode across the line hidden in the front bunch to retain his 12th place overall.
Flying under the radar is just fine for Hesjedal right now. Following a great opening week, the ex-mountain biker finds himself poised for a run at the top-10 overall.
“The top-10, that’s a nice goal to shoot for. I have to see how I can do. If I don’t have a horrible day, I should be able to stay up in the GC,” Hesjedal told VeloNews before the start of Thursday’s stage. “The first half of the Tour has been plenty hard and the final week is horrific looking. We’ll see where I stand when it’s done.”
Things turned upside down for Hesjedal when Christian Vande Velde crashed out in the first week. Hesjedal came to the Tour looking to help Vande Velde in the mountains and go for a stage victory.
With Vande Velde gone, Hesjedal stepped up to carry the team’s GC hopes into the Alps. He rode an excellent stage across the cobblestones and rode up Avoriaz in the top-10 overall.
Hesjedal couldn’t match the watts on the Madeleine, but defended well to settle into 12th overall at 5:42 back .
“Tuesday was hard for everyone, except for a few. So far, I am doing the best than I can,” he said. “If you look at the guys in front of me and the guys behind me, I don’t think the top-20 this deep before. Every name is quality, they’ve either stood on the podium of a grand tour or won a big race. I am just happy to be in that company.”
Garmin officials are not putting too much pressure on Hesjedal. Sport director Matt White said the team will support him as long as he’s feeling up for the fight.
The best-ever Canadian performance in the Tour was fourth by Steve Bauer in 1988. Hesjedal admits matching that feat will be extremely difficult, but still hopes to maximize the opportunity he’s been given.
“I just put pressure on myself. I find myself in this position and want to do well. I came here without this situation in mind,” Hesjedal said. “I am just taking it as it comes. I am already pleased with what’s happened, so whatever happens will be a bonus. I have already learned a lot and I will come out of this Tour a lot better rider, that’s the main goal.”
Hesjedal has already enjoyed a great 2010 campaign, with a podium at the Amstel Gold Race and a stage victory at the Tour of California. A top-10 at the Tour would be a great way to cap his season.