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Hesjedal top Canadian at GP Montreal

Giro champ leads the home country riders in, but can't make the front group; Barry nears retirement

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MONTREAL (VN) — For the second year in a row, Ryder Hesjedal (Garmin-Sharp) was the top Canadian at the Grand Prix Cycliste de Montreal on Sunday, finishing 23rd, but was unable to reach the podium as he did in the race’s inaugural edition in 2010.

On the final lap, the Giro d’Italia champion dug in and tried to launch an attack on the Cote de la Polytechnique to reel in Greg Van Avermaet (BMC Racing) and break up the group of 20 riders that had managed to distance itself from the peloton. But Hesjedal’s efforts were in vain as Peter Sagan (Liquigas-Cannondale) and Simon Gerrans (Orica-Greenedge), Friday’s winner in Québec, launched counter-attacks.

“I took a chance out there,” said Hesjedal, “I put it on the line and tried to put some guys on their back foot.”

When Lars Petter Nordhaug (Sky) — the eventual winner — jumped with 4.5km to go, and Moreno Moser (Liquigas) and Bjorn Leukemans (Vacansoleil-DCM) went on the chase, Hesjedal knew that getting into the chase himself would not be to his advantage.

“I’m sure if I would have tried to get away with those guys, everyone would have been on my back wheel,” said Hesjedal.

After Friday’s Grand Prix Cycliste de Québec City, where he finished 94th, 5:18 behind winner Gerrans, Hesjedal wasn’t sure what kind of performance he could pull together in Montréal to close the WorldTour doubleheader.

“If I look at how I was on Friday, I wasn’t certain how I would be able to perform today,” said Hesjedal, “But I was happy with what I was able to do today. I am happy with my efforts — hopefully people enjoyed the race.”

Despite his best efforts to get back on the podium this year, Hesjedal was realistic about his form coming into Sunday.

“You have to look at where you are at in the season,” said Hesjedal, “After winning the Giro d’Italia, I had great form that I brought into the Tour de France. But after crashing out of the Tour, I had to recover and try to get back into training and give myself a chance to represent Canada well at the Olympics.”

David Veilleux (Europcar) was the next best Canadian behind Hesjedal, finishing 24th, 22 seconds behind Nordhaug. Francois Parisien (Spidertech-C10) finished one spot back, on the same time. Parisien, who was 10th in Québec on Friday, was disappointed with his result on Sunday.

“With the legs I had in Québec, we were hoping we would do really well today,” said Parisien, “The team completely sacrificed themselves for me, and I had to personally apologize to them for not being able to make it into the first group. I was close, but I just wasn’t strong enough.

“I was in control, and was in a perfect position for the last five laps, but I was missing a little something; it wasn’t much. I was only 10 meters behind at the top of Cote Camillien-Houde, but the gap widened quickly on the descent and I wasn’t able to close it.”

Parisien said he was tired from his top-10 ride on Friday and nervous as well. In the end, he simply didn’t have the legs to make the move he needed to.

Parisien’s teammate, Martin Gilbert, finished 49th, 28 seconds back from the winner, in the main pack. Michael Barry (Sky) was 57th, also in the peloton.

Barry, who was racing before a home crowd on Canadian soil for the last time as a professional, described his experience as tough, emotional and special.

“It was remarkable riding the whole circuit,” said Barry, “There were so many people cheering me on. There were so many supporters that have encouraged me and helped me since I was a young boy. It was really quite lovely.”

Despite suffering two injuries this season that significantly affected his race calendar, Barry said that the Québec and Montréal races had always been objectives of his for this year.

“I was pretty sure that this was going to be my last season, and we don’t get many opportunities to race in Canada as professionals,” said Barry. “Every chance I get is special. It sort of bookended my career.”

To add to the emotion of racing one last time as a professional in Canada, Barry was able to contribute to and celebrate his teammate Nordhaug’s victory.

“I could hear over the radio what was going on, that we had won, and it was certainly a nice way to cap off an already great day,” said Barry, who will finish his career for good at the Tour of Beijing in October.