Posted by Editoress on 05/1/09
Canada's Ryder Hesjedal (Garmin-Slipstream) finished his Spring Classics season last weekend with a very strong 11th place in Liege-Bastogne-Liege, the 'Queen' of the Classics. It should be noted that this may become a 10th place depending upon what happens to winner Davide Rebellin (Serramenti PVC Diquigiovanni-Androni Giocattoli) after the investigation into his alleged positive for CERA EPO at the Olympic Games. This interview took place before the leak of Rebellin's alleged positive.
Canadian Cyclist: So, congratulations. 11th at Liege is pretty amazing.
Ryder Hesjedal: Yeah, it was good. After Fleche I wanted to finish the spring out with a really good ride. I was feeling good, and the team was fully backing me for Liege.
CC: So how did the race develop?
RH: I was pretty comfortable going into the race after doing it last year, and I knew the final climb [Côte de Saint-Nicolas]. My plan was to race as smart as possible, and save myself for that climb. I had a bit of a problem after Côte de la Roche aux Faucons, when I was isolated and had to chase, but I was able to get back to the front group one kilometre before Saint-Nicolas. Then there were two guys away and I was ninth in the sprint. It was a pretty unusual final, I don't think anyone had been in a group that big for the final before.
It was a lot different to be the designated rider, there's more pressure having the team working for you.
CC: Does this make you think now that you have the potential to win a Classic like Liege?
RH: I'd like to think so, yes. Liege stands alone, at the end of the Classics, partly because of its length and the climbs. Now I have the confidence that I can improve in these races. A big part of it is the experience, knowing the race, knowing how Saint-Nicolas feels after six hours ... you have to go through that a few times before you can think of winning.
CC: So now you switch to the Grand Tours, with the Giro less than two weeks away. What's your schedule up to the Giro?
RH: It's pretty straightforward - I'm recovering now in [his Spanish base] Girona, then we have a team camp starting Friday, and [next] Wednesday we leave for Italy.
CC: Now that you are experienced with the Giro, does that change how you approach the race?
RH: For sure, the fact that I've gone through it - especially last year that was so hard - I'll use that confidence that I've done it. I'll be better fitness-wise, stronger, so I can perform better.
CC: So what is the goal for the team?
RH: First to defend our victory in the Team Time Trial. The focus is the same as last year, focus on the TTT victory and the Pink Jersey. After that, we will take it as it comes. We aren't putting as much emphasis on the GC, I don't think, but using it as a training platform, racing platform for the Tour [de France]. So we don't have as big an emphasis on selecting a sole leader for the GC, we'll just see how it goes as the Giro progresses. Last year Christian [Vande Velde] rode hard, but with reserve - he wasn't chasing the GC in the second half.
CC: And for you personally?
RH: It starts and gets going pretty quickly in the Dolomites, it's completely different from last year. I'm just focussing personally on preparing the best I can, being in the best shape. The race unfolds and you get a feel for it as it goes on. That's how I approach it. It's so long, it's a bit overwhelming if you try to analyze that far ahead.
Then, afterwards recover, go to altitude, get some good training and get ready for the Tour.
CC: And the season so far - how do you rate it?
RH: Well, to be close to a top-10 in a monument [Liege] ... I had a good start to the season, with an 8th in the hardest stage of [the Tour] Down Under. I'm very excited as this Giro and Tour come up. With the age and experience I have under my belt now, and being on a great team, it's going really well, and I can still see continued improvement.
To see guys like Rebellin winning at 37 [note: the EPO revelation had not come out] is very encouraging. I think my best years are still to come.
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