Posted by Editor on 06/3/06
Just over a week ago, Ryder Hesjedal recorded the best result ever for a Canadian in the Pro Tour, when he finished fourth overall in the week-long Volta a Catalunya in Spain. Hesjedal's result vaulted him into the top-40 in the Pro Tour standings (he has since dropped to 41st after the conclusion of the Giro d'Italia). We spoke with Ryder earlier in the week, while he was back in his European base of Girona (Spain), recovering and preparing for the Dauphine Libere.
Canadian Cyclist - First off, congratulations. That was a huge result for you, I'm guessing.
Ryder Hesjedal - Yeah, definitely. You can't really go in expecting a result like that. You prepare, but it doesn't happen all the time like that.
CC - Did you have an inkling go in that you could do that well? You have done well previously here.
RH - You always go in to give it your best, but yes, I had a good feeling, a good sensation. I had a good preparation for this race; I went home (Victoria) after Paris-Roubaix, so it was a good break and I could prepare there.
Yes, I did well at the Catalunya l'Avenir (he won in 2002), but I don't know if that really translates to this race. None of the routes were the same, and you can't compare an elite amateur race to the Pro Tour four years later!
I think a bigger point was that I pre-rode the last 130 kilometres of the Arcalis stage (stage 4); so I had gone and looked at the hardest day, the GC deciding day and knew what to expect.
But I felt from the beginning (of the race) that I had to show in the first 13 kilometer time trial that I was there. I finished only 15 seconds back on the leaders, so I was in good position, and then I had to stay confident through the first couple of stages and be aggressive on Arcalis.
CC - And that stage did turn out to be the important one - you and your (Phonak) team leader Santiago Botero finished third (Botero) and fourth, positions you held for the remaining stages. How did the stage go?
RH - That stage was pretty straightforward. It's a big day, a long day. Unless you go in an early break it's all about saving it until the final climbs. That worked for (Christophe) Moreau (AG2R Prevoyance - finished second), but we decided to sit tight in the peloton.
First you ascend into Andorra, then a stiff Cat 1 5K climb - that's the first decider. Oscar Pereiro (Caisse d'Epargne-Illes Balears) set tempo there, and after the climb there was only 50 guys left. I stayed on Pereiro's wheel the whole time and it was gooding according to plan, so I was feeling pretty confident with only 25K to go.
Then the last main climb is 10 kilometres - Sector Arcalis. There was one attack, and Moreau was still away from the original break. (Luis) Sanchez from Liberty (Seguros) went then, and it felt right, so I went with the move; there were four of us. I could tell that I was stronger than the three other guys.
Santi (Botero) bridged up to me halfway up the climb, and after that we rode together, trying to get the best time we could.
There's a definite shift in confidence when you are in GC, defending a position. You can't be sitting up on the climbs, if you are in GC then you have to be aggressive, staying in good position, watching the other key guys. It really starts to click together.
CC - Finishing this high in a Pro Tour event is a major accomplishment - how does it compare to winning a (mountain bike) World Cup, or a silver medal at Worlds?
RH - This is easily one of my biggest rides to date. Being fourth in a road (stage) race in the Pro Tour is not easy to do. You can have a lot of great days, do a lot of work for the team and still not have results like this. Catalunya is a historic race, a hard race. I defended (his fourth) for three hard days afterwards, so it's a solid result. Doing well in a race like this brings the respect of your peers; that's the main accomplishment. It gives me hope that there is bigger yet to come, and gives me more confidence.
CC - Does this mean any changes in your role with the team? What about the Tour (de France)?
RH - The team had envisioned and hoped that I was coming to this level, so it gives them confidence in me too. But one result in one week doesn't change everything! By no means does it put me in the class of riders that have years and years of results. My schedule won't change: Dauphine, then the TTT in Eindhoven (Pro Tour), back to Quebec for Nationals, then Tour of Germany and the Vuelta.
For Dauphine, Floyd (Landis) and Santi (Botero) are pretty clear leaders (laughs). I'm just becoming a stronger supporter at this point. It means that I will hopefully be there in the mountains to support them. You have to pay your dues - I was talking to George (Hincapie) while we were training around Girona, and he pointed out that a few years ago Floyd was on Discovery setting tempo for Lance, and Floyd is now that guy - the leader.
Outside (the sport) people don't understand, they see only the final result. This will be the first time for me at Dauphine, and that race is no joke. Sometimes it seems harder than the Tour because it's only one week but you do some of the same climbs.
Note: A day after this interview Santiago Botero was removed from racing while investigations into possible links with Doctor Eufemiano Fuentes, who is under suspicion of committing crimes against public health by providing blood transfusions and other doping to athletes)
CC - I guess you won't have to worry about being selected for Worlds now, since you are the highest ranked on the Pro Tour?
RH - After the Giro only three guys moved in front of me, so I'm 41st now. It is pretty much all the same guys at the top, so it shouldn't be a lot of movement with guys moving front of me.
CC - I recently interviewed (American mountain biker) Jeremy Horgan-Kobelski, who has been getting some good results, including on the podium at Fort William (World Cup). He said that he finally is starting to feel like he belongs up there with the big boys - is that something you are starting to feel?
RH - You don't get lucky on a six hour day, so for sure I feel that I'm getting to the level I need to be at. I am starting to feel like I belong with these guys, I can hang with these guys, sure there's a little bit of that there. The tough part is going to be continuing that now, figuring out when I'm going to do it again.
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