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Respiratory problems fuel Hesjedal’s ‘total nightmare’ Giro exit

CORVARA, Italy (VN) — Early in Saturday’s epic climbing stage across the Dolomites, Ryder Hesjedal (Trek—Segafredo) was dizzy, having trouble breathing, and enduring stomach pain. Cycling is about suffering, but this was something else altogether. On a stage when the 2012 Giro winner would typically shine,…

CORVARA, Italy (VN) — Early in Saturday’s epic climbing stage across the Dolomites, Ryder Hesjedal (Trek—Segafredo) was dizzy, having trouble breathing, and enduring stomach pain. Cycling is about suffering, but this was something else altogether.

On a stage when the 2012 Giro winner would typically shine, Hesjedal was reeling.

“Today was basically a total nightmare,” Hesjedal said in a team release. “On a stage that is so beautiful and what I love most about the Giro, my body didn’t cooperate with my mind.”

Halfway through the six-climb, 210km stage, Hesjedal was forced to step into a Trek—Segafredo team car. Always the gritty fighter who never gives up, the veteran Canadian was doing just that. It wasn’t part of the plan in his move to lead Trek in the Giro.

“As soon as we started climbing I knew something was not right,” Hesjedal said. “My body just didn’t work anywhere near to the last days. I was struggling to hold the wheel in my terrain. Rapidly my body began to feel worse with a bad stomach – I had the feeling of the need to use the toilet, with a headache and dizziness. This was also concerning for the downhills as my balance was being affected.”

Hesjedal’s problems started on last Monday’s rest day, and doctors said he suffering from pharyngitis (inflammation of the pharynx) and tracheitis (inflammation of the trachea). As pro riders do, they try their best to keep any physical ailments under wraps. They don’t tell journalists, and they certainly don’t tell their rivals.

“I have been fighting a respiratory ailment since Monday and the efforts this week I guess took its toll,” he said. “Every day I have been trying to get through it, and I had seemed to be getting through, so I kept pushing. But today the body was not responding and I felt pretty bad all over.”

Hesjedal showed signs of difficulty in Friday’s explosive stage, when he lost contact on the late climbs, and started Saturday 14th overall. Leaving the Giro is a bitter disappointment, because he’d worked all season to get ready for the race he won in 2012. He joined Trek this season to lead in the Giro, and he still hasn’t decided about his future, but leaving the Giro in this manner wasn’t in the cards.

“It’s unfortunate. I definitely don’t want to leave the Giro like this, but sometimes it’s out of your control,” he said. “You can’t just make things happen if it’s not possible. I’d say a cyclist’s specialty is suffering and pushing beyond what is capable most times.

“I think it will take a while for this to sink in, and I am sure I will reflect more later,” Hesjedal continued. “I will try and not get too upset, but it is not easy. It’s how it goes – I will have to deal with it. Life goes on.”

Trek—Segafredo is now down to six riders (Fabian Cancellara abandoned in stage 10 and Boy Van Poppel was outside the time limit in stage 8). Team management said it will ride for breakaways, stage victories, as well as defend the red points jersey with Giacomo Nizzolo.