Posted by Editor on 07/18/08
Ryder Hesjedal Interview
Ryder Hesjedal is halfway through his first Tour de France with the Garmin-Chipotle team, the first Canadian to compete in the Tour since Gord Fraser back in 1997. We spoke with him late last night (post-stage 12) about his race so far.
Canadian Cyclist: So, you've made it halfway and everything seems to be going okay?
Ryder Hesjedal: Yeah, so far it is all good, no worries at all.
CC: How does the Tour compare to the Giro d'Italia?
RH: Well, they are both Grand Tours and there are a lot of similarities and a lot of differences. I won't really be able to say until I've finished this Tour and have had a chance to sit down and digest it in its entirety, but racing in Italy is different, and it is the first Grand Tour of the year, so riders enter it differently.
But so far, the biggest difference I can see is just the size of the Tour. Everyone is more focussed because it is the biggest race in the world. This is the Big Show. The other thing is that this Tour opened right away with a road stage, no timed event, which I guess is the first time that has happened in like 40 years, so right from the gun this Tour was different for everyone.
CC: It changed the racing, with no clear time gaps from the opening stage?
RH: Yeah, it was wide open from the start, and the racing was fierce from the start, so there has been a lot of stressful racing.
CC: What is your role? Before the start we talked about how the team had no GC aspirations and you [the team] would be opportunistic, going for stages, etc. I guess that has changed with Christian [Vandevelde, in third on GC] doing so well?
RH: We waited for the GC to sort itself out a little bit. I didn't really fit any specific role because I do a bit of everything, but now, yeah, it has totally changed the focus to protecting Christian, where earlier there might have been other options.
Definitely we have a GC contender, who is only 40 seconds out of the [Yellow] Jersey, so we are all there for him. We've got to make sure that we are protecting him at all times. If he has a good day, he could be in the Jersey. Right now we are in a good spot; Cadel's [Evans, race leader] team is doing a good job, and the strongest team [CSC] is right behind him, and we are sitting quietly in third.
CC: What about the Pyrenees - this is your first time over them from the French side, did you do as well as you had hoped?
RH: The level and speed they went over the climb's was pretty severe. I was able to get over the [Col d'] Aspin, and also be there at the bottom of the Tourmalet for Christian. I was there for most of Tourmalet, and when you see who the guys were in the front group [after he came off], I can't be too upset at how I am riding.
CC: Now, you know we have to talk about the doping scandal that came out this morning [Thursday] with Riccardo Ricco [Saunier Duval-Scott] getting a positive for EPO in his 'A' sample. How did that impact the race and the riders?
RH: Yeah, well our bus is right next to theirs, so we saw all the big production this morning. All I could think was, "Oh yeah, here we go..."
These pains have to happen, as the sport is cleaning up. But it's almost unbelievable that they're push it still [taking banned substances], because they are going to get caught.
CC: I've heard some discussion that maybe one of the reasons that Christian [Vandevelde] is doing so well is that there is not so much doping so it is more of a level playing field?
RH: That might be partly true, but Christian is at the best level he's ever been as well. It's great that our guy can challenge, but it is frustrating that part of what has to be happening is this doping stuff. But there is no doubt that if it is going to happen, it will be at the Tour, because that is the biggest race with the most pressure. The testing just has to go up as necessary.
CC: So what about the testing, is there a noticeable difference?
RH: We are always having controls, it's what's required. I've been tested eight or more times this year, at races and by the team; during one week I was tested four times. But people don't realize that nothing is being done in other sports at this level, it has to happen there too.
CC: Okay, let's drop doping and get back to the Tour - you are confident that you are going to make it to the end now?
RH: For sure. I know it's doable, and I'm not thinking of anything other than riding on the Champs Elysees in Paris. Hopefully, with a team mate on the podium. I'm looking to have my best days in the Alps, and to shine for Christian, the team and myself.
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