Posted by Editor on 03/19/09
Canada's Ryder Hesjedal (Garmin-Slipstream) just finished his first major stage race of the year, the Tirreno-Adriatico, where he finished eighth overall. We spoke with Ryder yesterday evening from his hotel in Italy, where he is recovering and preparing for his next round of racing.
Canadian Cyclist: So, how do you feel after this first big test of the season?
Ryder Hesjedal: Well, I definitely feel a lot better coming out of this race than last year. This year the race was harder, but I still came out of it feeling stronger than when I went in. I'm pretty pleased with my performance, and this sets me up to move it up another level in the next few weeks.
CC: Has your schedule been similar to last year? What about the off season, did you do anything different?
RH: No, this time I had less racing, and more time to train. Before this, the only stage race I had was the Tour Mediterranean, but last year I raced all through February.
I didn't change my [off season prep] much; I spent as much time on Maui as possible. But last year was different, with two Grand Tours, and then continuing through to the Olympics. After that, I pretty much stopped, and I've never stopped so early before. It meant I was able to start training again in early October after a huge period of rest.
CC: It looked like you were pretty consistent all through Tirreno, with only the time trial being a bit of a problem (he finished 24th).
RH: Yeah, at the time trial I was maybe hoping for a little bit more, but it was my first time trial of the year. I rode it well, made no mistakes. I finished 24th, sure, but a lot of guys ahead of me [on the stage] were not in the General [Classification]. I think I need more time trials in my legs, but I can't be too upset about losing time to the Italians like Rebellin in their home race at this time of year.
I think it was more important to have a day like two days ago [the final stage]. To finish 11th in the Queen stage ... a 235 kilometre mountain stage, and I'm going up the final selection climb with the best of the best after six and a half hours of racing is a pretty good indicator of where I am. Definitely I think that shows that I am going that much better than last year, and gives me confidence that everything is on track.
CC: What's next?
RH: Now it's the Ardennes: Pays Basques and then Fleche and Liege.
CC: Does your schedule include the Giro and Tour, like last year?
RH: Yes, the same as last year, with the Giro building towards the Tour.
CC: What about the Giro, what is your role likely to be there? Is there an opportunity to be a GC rider?
RH: Well, we are still recovering from Tirreno! I'm sure that the team will be discussing roles, but I haven't heard anything yet. There are lots of objectives at the Giro besides the General, so we'll have to see what opportunities there are.
CC: This year, you had some Canadian companionship in the race - your team mate Svein Tuft, and Dominique Rollin (Cervelo Test Team). Did you have a chance to see them much, and did it make a difference having other Canadians in the race?
RH: It was great; to have three of us in this race was pretty different. Svein was great, he was helping me during the race; he's a good guy to have on your side. He got through Tirreno pretty good, and I think that he will improve steadily.
CC: Now, how about the Tour? Last year, you were one of the key guys helping Christian [Vande Velde], will that be your role this year?
RH: Well, first of all my number one goal is just getting to the Tour. There are no guarantees for anybody; I'm pretty well placed, but when July comes it is the best nine guys who are selected. After that, the number one goal, for sure, will be supporting Christian - we are going with a guy who can challenge for the podium, so that is what we focus on.
CC: Okay, leaving aside race plans, I wanted to ask about the Biological Passport program from your perspective as a rider. The Passport seems to be gaining credibility, with even organizations like WADA saying that cycling is improving. How about within the program, on the road - are you noticing any differences in the peloton?
RH: Well ... I like to think so, it has to be making a difference with the amount of testing. I think all the testing, and knowing that it is happening, is better for the sport. One thing I can see is more optimism, there's more hope. [Now] I believe I can win these big races ... maybe 10 years ago it would have been harder to imagine. I'm excited, encouraged with the way the sport is now.
Before Eroica, I had three controls in six days in Girona: from the team, from the UCI and from CCES (Canadian testing agency). You have to know it's cleaner.
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