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MADRID (VN) – There’s no rest for the weary for Ryder Hesjedal.
As most of his Tour de France colleagues head home, race in criteriums or chill on the beach, the Garmin-Cervélo rider is preparing to race this weekend’s Clásica San Sebastián in northern Spain.
“The form’s good coming out of the Tour,” Hesjedal told VeloNews. “So I will take a crack at San Sebastián.”
The hilly route across Spain’s Basque Country is ideally suited for Hesjedal, who notched two top-10s the past two editions, with fifth in 2009 and sixth last year.
The Clásica route, which includes two passages over the first-categroy Jaizkibel climb towering over the Bay of Biscay, typically sees strong riders coming out of the Tour who still have the motivation to take one more deep dig.
Hesjedal doesn’t want to skip the chance to aim for the podium in the Spanish classic, especially after having a great final half of the Tour with a third-place into Gap behind winning teammate Thor Hushovd and 10th on both the Galibier and Alpe d’Huez summits.
Hesjedal’s hopes of topping his breakthrough seventh-place from 2010 were dashed when he crashed early in the Tour, but he pushed through the pain to become a key helper to Tom Danielson as well as help Garmin-Cervélo win the team classification.
“It was hard to crash (in stage 7) and have the personal GC hopes go away. The GC didn’t pan out for me this year, but I was happy that I didn’t go home that day like a lot of guys,” Hesjedal said. “You have to look to the positive side of everything in cycling. It’s not the easy moments that make you stronger. I was able to get through that and I was able to ride strong in the final week.”
The Canadian rode at the nose of the action once the Tour turned into the Alps.
In stage 16 on a hilly transition stage into Gap, Hesjedal and Hushovd rode into the day’s winning break. Hesjedal attacked on the final climb and when Edvald Boasson Hagen chased him down, Hushovd marked the wheel and won his second stage, with Hesjedal crossing the line with a Tour-best third.
Hesjedal rode even better in the Alps, pacing Danielson through the Tour’s most difficult stages, riding to 10th both at the Galibier and Alpe d’Huez.
“You cannot ask much more than that as far as rides go,” he said. “I knew if I could get through the pain of the first part of the Tour, I had confidence that I could be strong in the third week of the Tour, just like I have been in the other Tours I’ve done.”
Hesjedal made a run for the victory up Alpe d’Huez, when he shot after eventual stage winner Pierre Rolland (Europcar). When he couldn’t match the rhythm, he then helped pace Danielson up the 21 switchbacks to help his teammate secure ninth overall.
“I hit the Alpe with a little dream of victory,” he said. “I rode the Alpe once before in 2008. I did what I could for Vande Velde and then I kind of rode in no man’s land. It’s a lot sweeter to be in the mix. It’s epic riding the Alpe. It’s hard to describe. I hit the bottom with the winner of the stage, then to have Alberto come past and then latching on with Schleck and Evans, and then to have Tom bridge back up and drag him to the finish line — it was an action-packed 14km.”
Hesjedal’s strong rides in the Alps, along with Danielson’s and Christian Vande Velde’s, helped Garmin-Cervélo win the prestigious team classification in Paris.
“It was a perfect exclamation for our Tour,” Hesjedal said. “It’s been an unreal Tour.
Hesjedal said Garmin’s highly successful Tour – which included four stage wins, a week in the yellow jersey and the team’s prize – meant the world to the squad.
Coming into the 2011 Tour, Garmin had never won a Tour stage despite riding to 17 top-3s in its previous three Tours.
“That was a little monkey off our back,” Hesjedal said. “We’ve had great Tours before, with some great rides, but now wins. To knock it out of the park with the team time trial and take yellow in the process, we were off and running. That carried us through the race and what we were able to accomplish.”
After the Clásica, Hesjedal will head back to North American where he’ll finally have a chance to recover on the past few weeks of intense racing. He’ll likely wrap up his season like he did last season, looking for big performances on the Canadian races to close out the calendar on home roads.