Canadian Cyclist


February 16/03 2:06 am - Interview with Ryder Hesjedal

Posted by Editor on 02/16/03

Ryder Hesjedal Interview

Ryder Hesjedal is currently in Europe, racing for the Rabobank Division 3 (TT III) road team. We had the chance to talk with him yesterday, from his base in Holland.

CC - This is a big move: moving to Europe to train and race with a pro team like Rabobank. How did it come about and why did you decide to make such a move?

RH - Rabobank saw me at races last spring, with the Espoir national project and Bob Buker (a national team soigneur from Europe) who was on the project knew people at Rabobank and passed my name along. I tested with Rabobank at the end of the season (when he won a stage race in Spain), and I guess they liked what they saw.

It took a while to put together - the logistics with mountain bike and road had to be worked out, and I didn't want to say anything until everything was done. But now it is and I am over here training and racing.

I think I've shown through my road program last year that it works for improving my mountain biking. The mountain bike season starts so late this year that I needed to get some racing in - you can't just train all the time! Rabobank is good because by being on a proper team rather than with national team projects it is more consistent and I can learn so much more. The team is their development team, so there is a lot of emphasis on training and coming up for the future. At this point it is really good for me.

CC - How are you going to split your time between road and mountain bike?

RH - There is no change to my mountain bike calendar at this time; with the season starting so late it is a good fit to do both. I started here with a training camp in Croatia and a couple of races at the end of (last) week. Then we headed back to Holland, where I am staying with a team mate for a few days before we leave for the Tour of Rhodes (February 19-23). After Rhodes I do an early race in Belgium on March 2nd and then I go home for a few days before the Subaru-Gary Fisher camp and the start of the mountain bike season. I'll be doing the Desert Nova (March 22-23) and then back home until Sea Otter. After Sea Otter I head back to Europe until early May, when I come back over here for the Norba opener. Then the World Cup season starts after that.

CC - What about during the season? Things like Beauce, and the conflict between the Road Nationals and the Mont Ste Anne World Cup, or even the Road Worlds in Hamilton?

RH - Hamilton is at the back of my mind, but we will have to see how the season unfolds. It would be incredible to go, with it being in Canada, but we don't know how many spots Canada gets, and it should be the strongest guys who go, so the competition would be pretty tough.

Beauce I don't think is possible, but Road Nationals are very important for Worlds, so I will have to look at it closer to the date. It might be possible to do both, although Mont Ste Anne would become training for a stronger ride at Grouse in that case. It also depends on how I am doing in the World Cup, because with only 6 races, 1 race can make a big difference and put you in contention or out of the picture.

CC - Is this thing with Rabobank the start of you moving over to road full time?

RH - I definitely have to consider road for the future; it is only natural to look to where you can go and improve. I definitely enjoy the road, and I'm looking forward to doing more. On the road there are lots of options - one day races, stage races, etc. Really, it comes down to that I just want to be the best I can.

It is interesting, over here in Belgium, Holland, people don't know who Roland and I are - mountain biking is pretty small. It makes you more humble, and shows that you have to do a lot to achieve success.

I've been doing mountain biking since I was 12 or 13; I still love it and it is my primary focus, I am focussed on Athens before anything else. I'm only 22, so I have some time yet.

CC - Why do you think Canada is so strong in mountain biking?

RH - We have something special here in Canada; having three in the top-10 regularly in World Cups is pretty remarkable. And Roland and I having 19 (wins) in a row at Norba is an unreal statistic that I think probably won't ever be broken.

One of the specific things that helped is how people came up through the Canada Cup. The Canada Cup has helped riders graduate to the next series - you have to get used to racing all across the country, travelling and racing. The Canada Cup was a pretty deep field when I was doing it - Roland, Seamus, Andreas, Neil (Grover), Keith (Stark) . . . It developed us so that the guys could go to the top.

CC - What is the focus for you this year? The World Cup, Mountain Bike Worlds, Road Worlds?

RH - Every year I try to focus on the whole year, rather than 1 race. I always want to come out fast for Sea Otter, and for the World Cup. But I'm starting to target specific events more now. This year will be my first year as a senior, and I want to do well at the Worlds. I've proved that I can do well against the seniors and beat them (he won the 2002 World Cup Final - ed.), and I didn't ever manage to get the Espoir (World title), so would be cool to finally get the jersey in the seniors. I have no contracts past this year, so it is pretty important for me to get some good results.

CC - Now that you are with a Euro road team, we have to ask you about doping: Is it something that you are seeing, or are being pressured to do?

RH - There is absolutely no pressure (to dope) from Rabobank. The team has this TT III team for development to bring riders up for the future without fabricated results. They know that longevity won't be there with drugs - a fast rise is a fast fall.

Obviously, it (doping) is out there, and it can be frustrating when you see some riders jump ahead. But if you have to train harder, then that's what you have to do. Roland and I have proved that you don't have to join the Euros to beat them - when they ride four hours, we ride six and a half. It is a shame that it is showing up in Canada (referring to the current Quebec EPO investigation in Quebec), but it is everywhere, in every sport. There are a lot of "amateur" teams in France, Italy, Spain where that stuff is going on - they want results now and aren't developing riders.

This team is truly an amateur development program - there are big clauses in the contract that anything to do with doping, and you are out. I want to be the rider that they pick for the TT I team, so I can't screw it up by doing something stupid like doping.

CC - What about your chances for Rhodes?

RH - I have good form right now; I was making Roland and Seamus suffer as much as they made me back in Victoria, so Langkawi gave an indication of where we are all at. Everyone is going to be hungry for early season results at Rhodes, but I'll be going for GC placing definitely.

Ryder will be back in touch with us after Rhodes for a follow up.


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