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Hesjedal hopeful for wonderful worlds

Vuelta a España stage-winner Ryder Hesjedal has agreed to stay with Garmin-Slipstream through the 2011 season. “I’ve signed to stay with the team for two more years. The team has been pleased with me and I am very happy with the team,” Hesjedal told VeloNews. “It was pretty simple. We were always on the same page. We were in agreement early in the year to work out an agreement.”

By Andrew Hood

2009 world championships: Ryder Hesjedal was the first Canadian to win a stage of the Vuelta a España.

Photo: Graham Watson (file)

Vuelta a España stage-winner Ryder Hesjedal has agreed to stay with Garmin-Slipstream through the 2011 season.

“I’ve signed to stay with the team for two more years. The team has been pleased with me and I am very happy with the team,” Hesjedal told VeloNews. “It was pretty simple. We were always on the same page. We were in agreement early in the year to work out an agreement.”

Hesjedal is hoping to carry the momentum from his Vuelta a España stage victory at Velefique into Sunday’s elite men’s road race at Mendrisio, Switzerland.

Hesjedal will join a three-man Canadian lineup that also includes Svein Tuft and Michael Barry. Confident that he has the staying power to follow the late-race moves, Hejsedal isn’t discounting another big breakthrough performance on Sunday.

VeloNews caught up with Hejsedal to gauge his ambitions ahead of this weekend’s race:

VeloNews: How are you feeling coming into the world championships?

Ryder Hesjedal: I do see myself being able to have a good ride at the worlds. I will have had 80 race days by the worlds. There’s only been one race I haven’t finished in two years in 150 races, so I am pretty pleased about that. I feel recovered and ready to try for the best ride possible on Sunday. I have had the perfect post-Vuelta period and I feel relaxed and optimistic to finish the season strong.

VN: What role do you see yourself playing?

RH: I’ve only done the road worlds twice, in 2005 and 2006, and I didn’t have the condition to even hang on. The worlds is a race that progressively gets harder. It’s so long and so hard, the race is over 250km. Knowing where I am now, I know I can be there and still have good form at the end. That’s what I am looking forward to. I just want to do what I showed at the Vuelta.

VN: Do you see yourself trying to play off the stronger teams?

RH: I am very optimistic I can be there in the final and be in the moves in the later part of the race. That’s all you have to think about in the worlds. You don’t have to be strong at the start or the middle. Everyone is on the same page. It’s just attrition, attrition, attrition, then it comes down to the strongest guys. You have to be there and be able to respond. I want to be in the hunt.

VN: Looking back at the Vuelta stage victory at Velefique, how important does it seem now that you’ve had some time to reflect on its significance?

RH: It’s something that you always dream about. Even a day after, it was just incredible. After such a hard effort, when I was in the gruppetto on the stage to Sierra Nevada, with guys on the limit, they were giving me congratulations. That was important that they were giving that recognition, because they know how hard it is. That’s what’s most satisfying. I see myself as a rider who can last in a race and I tried to make it as hard a day as possible. It seems that my biggest results come in Spain. I’m very happy that that’s happened. I am very pleased and content where I am right now. It’s a very symbolic victory for my career.

VN: What kind of impact did it have in Canada?

RH: The media was on it right away. It was national news. I was the first Canadian to win a stage in the Vuelta and only the second Canadian to win a grand tour stage after Bauer. It was big news, they noticed and that was nice. I am happy and pleased, because I am always working, striving, hoping for things to work out. And for it to happen the way it did was just great. It just means so much to win and what it represents. Some just think it’s just a bike race, but it’s a lot more than that. I want to try to enjoy it and turn it into some positive stuff.

VN: We’ve heard that the town is going to post the name of stage winners on each switchback, like at L’Alpe d’Huez in the Tour, so you will be the first …

RH: The mayor told us that they’re real excited about the Vuelta and they want to make something special of the climb. It’s the first time a race has finished on top and bring back more Vueltas. I am the first winner and that’s a pretty nice feeling, to know that I will be recognized and remembered in that fashion.

VN: Do you believe that the first big win like that can provide momentum for more success?

RH: I’ve been pleased with the whole year. I’ve continued to show progress; to be in the final at Liège, at San Sebastián, getting through the Tour in a good way, it shows I keep improving. I’ve added confirmation to that. Who knows what can happen after that? I can go hard in any race and be there. The more races I start with that confidence, I know I can continue to improve. Just being in that situation to win is hard. To be able to win is even more important. Year after year, you get in those situations, you get more comfortable, you get more opportunities.