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Hesjedal hoping to finish off 2013 on high note on home roads

Hesjedal looking for results in Utah, Alberta, Quebec after injury, illness derailed his Giro and Tour plans

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SAN SEBASTIAN, Spain (VN) — Ryder Hesjedal (Garmin-Sharp) is hoping to end a rough and tumble 2013 season on a high note with strong performances on home roads over the next six weeks.

The 2012 Giro d’Italia champion has suffered this year through crashes and health problems that derailed his major goals of the season at the Giro and Tour de France. Hesjedal, 32, admitted his string of setbacks made for a bumpy approach to the Tour, where he suffered a fractured rib in a crash in the opening stage.

“It’s not the end of the world, but it’s been a rough few months,” Hesjedal told VeloNews. “Most guys always want more, but it’s the reality of the sport. If I look back and be realistic, my buildup to the Tour was not that great. All I could do was hope for the best, but it just didn’t come up to my normal level. … Breaking my rib the first day didn’t really help.”

The Canadian was forced to give up any GC hopes early on during the Tour, and instead rode aggressively in several stages, working into breakaways, including a daring attack over Col du Glandon in stage 19. He finished a career-worst 70th overall.

“I think I showed myself I wasn’t afraid to try and try to create something out of the breakaways,” he continued. “If you look back at my career, there hasn’t been too many withdrawals from illness or injury, so you just got to take it for what it is. I kept trying. I was just missing the race days and I just wasn’t at my level at the Tour.”

After the race, Garmin director Charly Wegelius gave the Tour team a “10 out of 10” for effort, and highlighted some of Hesjedal’s performances as exemplary.

Hesjedal is taking a philosophical look at how his season has unfolded up to now. After winning last year’s Giro, Hesjedal came into 2013 with one eye on arriving at the Italian tour in top shape, with another on the yellow jersey in July.

He rode well throughout the spring, and provided key support to teammate Daniel Martin to help him win the Volta a Catalunya and Liège-Bastogne-Liège in April.

Confidence was sky high for the Giro, and Hesjedal attacked through the first week, but fell ill and eventually abandoned. After rebounding and showing signs of form at the Tour de Suisse, he crashed out, and came into the Tour hoping for the best.

“It’s just three weeks of a career, and I have to move forward, and not worry about it too much,” Hesjedal said of the Tour. “I still look at the good stuff. I had a busy year last year, winning the Giro and coming back after crashing out of the Tour to go to London [Summer Olympic Games], and I raced well at end of season.

“I tried to keep that momentum into the early season. I helped Dan win in Catalunya, and in Liège. Those are big results for the team, and I know I was a big part of that. And I showed up at the Giro as defending champion in top shape. That’s not a given. I was proud I was able to do that, but it just didn’t work out.”

After racing in last weekend’s Clásica San Sebastián, Hesjedal will return to North America where he will finish off his season.

Up next on his calendar are the Larry H. Miller Tour of Utah, the new Tour of Alberta, and the Canadian one-day WorldTour races in September. He said he’s looking forward to racing in front of home crowds on Canadian tarmac.

“Hopefully [Alberta] is a great race. It has great people behind it. I have a lot of ties to Alberta; it’s only one province over from [British Columbia, where Hesjedal lives], so I am looking forward to that,” he said. “That leads into Quebec for the one-days. Those are great races, and I’ve showed myself there before.”

Hesjedal admitted there remains some unsettled business with the Tour de France. After riding to a career-best sixth in 2010, he has had some frustrating moments in the French tour over the past few years. Following his Giro victory last year, Hesjedal said he came into the race even stronger, only to crash out in the first week.

Now, with Chris Froome and Sky dominating the Tour, Hesjedal vowed to keep plugging away. He’s hoping next year it can all come together for him, just as it did during last year’s Giro. Hesjedal said it would be a mistake to assume that Froome is going to win a string of Tours in a row.

“If that’s people’s mindset, they’re already beaten,” he said. “It’s a bike race, anything can happen. Nothing’s given. We’ll see where [Froome] goes from here and what happens. I tend to worry about myself. If you start to go off what other guys are doing, it’s not going to work out too well.”

Hesjedal’s rivals will get a feel for what he’s been doing when the Tour of Utah kicks off on Tuesday, August 6, in Brian Head.