June 12/06 6:45 am - Ryder Hesjedal Interview (Post-Dauphine)
Posted by Editor on 06/12/06
Ryder Hesjedal (Phonak) has just finished the Dauphine Libere stage race in France, his second ProTour stage race in three weeks. He followed up his fourth overall at the Volta a Catalunya in Spain with a strong 17th overall at Dauphine - the third North American and top rider on his team. After Dauphine, Hesjedal is ranked 45th in the ProTour - not since the glory days of Steve Bauer has a Canadian been so high in the international rankings.
We spoke with Ryder at his base in Girona, Spain, where he is recovering from Dauphine and preparing for next weekend's ProTour team time trial in Eindhoven (Holland).
Canadian Cyclist - Another big week for you - 17th in Dauphine with a very strong ride on Mont Ventoux (Stage 4).
Ryder Hesjedal - Yeah, definitely I have to be happy with the way it turned out. We (the team) had a different scenario after Ventoux when Floyd (Landis - team captain) wasn't going so well. It's hard when it changes in the middle (of the race) like that; mentally you have to switch from being there in support.
CC - So what was the situation with Floyd?
RH - He just didn't have the legs in that moment on Ventoux. He could have suffered through it, maybe finished tenth on GC, but it isn't worth it when you are working towards July (the Tour).
The team was spectacular; we started riding tempo at the front 20 K to the base (of Ventoux), then me and (Koos) Moerenhout strung it out until 10 K from the top. We had whittled it down to 25 or 30 guys, but the attacks were starting to come and that's when Floyd realized that he didn't have what was needed at that critical time. We sat up for a moment, and Floyd made the decision, told me to go while Koos stayed with him.
I had already spent energy, and we had lost the front group, so I had to play catch up, catching riders all during the rest of the climb. I caught up to George (Hincapie - Discovery) and I rode it in with him for the last 4 K.
To ride the last 4 K with Hincapie, toe to toe ... it's one of those moments, it was a cool moment.
CC - I know it is impossible to say for sure, but do you think you could have stayed with the leaders if you hadn't had to chase back?
RH - For sure I think I could have easily had enough to follow and stay with the majority of the leaders. Even so I only finished 3 minutes down on them. It's a 'coulda, woulda, shoulda' situation, but I'm definitely confident that I could have been there with those guys.
CC - You were 15th after Ventoux (Stage 4), and then on Saturday (Stage 6) you finished 26th, 9 minutes down, and dropped to 17th.
RH - Yeah, on Saturday I was being aggressive on the Galibier, made the break on the Telegraph and it was looking really good to have a head start on the Croix de Fer but Rabobank joined Gerolsteiner and they chased really hard to bring it back by the bottom of the Croix de Fer . From that effort I was a little bad on the hard moments of that climb and lost contact with the leaders, but over the last 2 climbs, the Mollard and the le Toussier I was feeling really good by not conceding too much time! I was pleased that I was still able to finish strong on the hardest day. I had just a bit of a problem in the middle, but overall a great race.
CC - This is your first time in the big mountains of the Tour, isn't it? What do you take away from this experience?
RH - Just the confidence that I can survive. People have always looked at me as a climber, but it is a whole different thing at this level. It was my first time on Ventoux, Col d'Izoard, Galibier, and doing 20 to 22 K climbs is a little different! So, I'm definitely happy to ride so well on the big mountains.
I know what I've done to get to where I am now, and I know what I have to do to go forward. By focussing this year on Catalunya and Dauphine, now I have seen how I can go with that preparation.
CC - In a recent thread on our Forums, someone announced that they had talked to relatives of your's, and stated that you would be doing the Tour. Is that true?
RH - (Laughs) Yeah, I saw that! I have no idea where they got that from. At this point it is not true, the plan is staying the same - the TTT (in Eindhoven) next Sunday and then Nationals.
CC - But your goal is to do the Tour?
RH - Yes, of course, but I would like to go into it with proper preparation. I think I could ride the Tour this year, but it isn't in the plan. Now I can look forward to doing the Tour next year. For sure that is where I want to be, but it is delicate when you are on a team; everything needs to be put together properly for the whole team. This year I will still do a Grand Tour - the Vuelta - and we are talking ... there is a good opportunity for me to be a GC rider there.
CC - So now you get to head home for a little while before Nationals?
RH - Yes, I get 10 days at home before Nationals, then I take a rest like after Roubaix, and then after that starts to build up again for Tour of Germany, Vuelta and Worlds. After that there is Piemonte and Lombardia to finish the season, so I will have about 85 days of racing this year.
CC - Another Forums poster suggested that they should just mail you the gold medal from Nationals...
RH - Yeah, I saw that one as well! (Laughs) Well, you know what happened last year (Hesjedal was a marked man, eventually finishing 4th) ... I think the time trial is a better chance; there is more control there. But I want to do it definitely. When you go to the Nationals, you want to be Canadian champion.
CC - Are you where you want to be at this point? I mean, with your results, your condition?
RH - I've taken a big step up in the last two months, and I would say that I am ahead of where I hoped to be. Even on a bad day I was still there and able to be consistent at Dauphine. These were the two big races that I hoped would go well, and they did.
My time trialing is definitely improving. (David) Zabriskie (CSC) is time trialing in a different zone right now, but from second, third, fourth ... I'm only losing a minute and a half to George and Floyd. I can definitely improve.
CC - With your results, have there been any nibbles from other teams?
RH - Yes, of course there is always (talking), and you always have to look at opportunities, but right now, part of the reason I am where I am is this team. I am 100% happy with them. At this point we are all just waiting ... iShares is expected to take over sponsorship, and then we will see what the future holds.