Posted by Editoress on 04/15/07
Due to a variety of factors, there are only two Canadians competing in the Tour de Georgia. We may not have quantity, but we do have quality - the two Canadian racers are Ryder Hesjedal of HealthNet presented by Maxxis and Charles Dionne of Colavita/Sutter Home. Both have moved from ProTour teams to domestic squads for 2007, both are optimistic about their chances in this week's Tour de Georgia, and neither is following the Stanley Cup playoffs too closely Amy Smolens had a chance to speak with each of them on the eve of the race start in Peachtree City.
Ryder Hesjedal - HealthNet presented by Maxxis
AS: How are things going with the new team, how's the chemistry?
RH: Oh it's perfect, I mean it's a good mix of guys. International, mostly Commonwealth, with that component - Australian, British, Canadian - and the rest Americans, so it's pretty relaxed.
AS: The last time you were in North America you were racing on the dirt - what's the difference between racing the road over in Europe and here in North America?
RH: So far, not much change. California - huge event - you have all the top guys, not all of them but as many as you can have in one race at one time. Here will be similar, so up until now it's kind of been status quo for me. I got a little bit more feel of it in Redlands a couple of weeks ago, domestic racing, but the level is still hard. It's almost harder in a sense when you're not just following and trying to survive, you actually are in the race and having to be more aggressive and more involved. For me it's nothing different, you have to work just as hard no matter what.
AS: You've been training with George Hincapie in South Carolina, talk about that.
RH: Yeah, I just came out a week early to get acclimated. He's been home since California and we're good friends so I thought it'd be good to get this last week, a little bit of a training camp, then just come down here and go.
AS: What are the team goals for the Tour de Georgia?
RH: For HealthNet it's always to win and to be animators in the race. I feel quite responsible for that, that's why I came here, to strengthen the team with my experience and what I've done over in Europe. Yeah, it's a good place to be.
AS: With Nathan O'Neill coming off a car accident how does that change your role here? Is the GC onus more on you?
RH: I think even from the beginning of the year I have a couple of skills that maybe Nathan doesn't and vice versa, so together hopefully we can come up with the best results possible, with two tries. We've yet to race together - we've done one training race in Southern Cal, but not real racing, so it'll be interesting. I haven't done this race but those guys, especially Nathan, he knows it like the back of his hand, so I think together we should be probably paid attention to.
AS: Who's clueing you in about the stages - Nathan? Tim Johnson?
RH: Nathan, Tim - Tim's the on-road captain, he knows the domestic racing as good as anybody so if I need to know something he'll be telling me.
AS: Which particular stages seem to suit you?
RH: Stage 4 (Time Trial,) Stage 5 (Brasstown Bald) are for us, the General. And also 3 (Rome-Chattanooga, TN) if you're not paying attention - that'll be the heart of the GC component and then we'll try and hang on until Atlanta.
AS: You left the Protour but for Georgia & at the Tour of California the Euro riders are here. Is it important to show you can compete with the best?
RH: Yeah, that's part of it, but I have shown that so I don't really feel that I need to show that over here, even though you do, because that's racing. So I plan to, and now races get bigger and bigger here and you show up at a domestic race with 5 strong proper teams and that's good hard racing and there's more and more guys that were over there that are over here now so the line's not as big. Here I get to continue what I developed at Phonak in getting to prepare for races and not just be thrown in randomly.
AS: At the World's in Salzburg you were the only Canadian in the road race, which was pretty tough. Given that, how big was Svein Tuft's result at the U.S. Open Championship in Richmond last week in order to get Canada UCI points and more representation?
RH: Yeah, he's doing a great job. Those guys know their job and are doing it really well, Symmetrics, in going after races they can do well in. Obviously if we can gain more spots it's better and that was a great ride so that's what you want to see. There's not too many of us out here so it's nice when we get noticed.
AS: Have you been paying attention to the Stanley Cup playoffs?
RH: I heard it went long there for the Canucks, a quad overtime. But I haven't been paying attention, I know it's not very Canadian but unfortunately I've been pretty busy doing my thing. I'm sure if it gets super exciting I won't be able to miss it when it gets really good.
AS: Are you a Canucks fan?
RH: Oh yeah, I'm a BC boy so I root for those guys for sure.
Charles Dionne- Colavita/Sutter Home
AS: How are things going with the new team so far?
CD: It's going alright and I think I'm feeling better so hopefully we'll have a good week here.
AS: How's the chemistry?
CD: It's pretty good, we've learned to ride with each other we've done a couple races now. I think the team is ready, we know each other, who's doing what on the team so that's good.
AS: What are the team's goals for the Tour de Georgia?
CD: First it's Anthony Colby, we want to put him in a good place on GC, that's our first goal. Then I hope to do something in a couple of stages, I think I'm going to have at least 4 chances here to do something well, so hopefully I can take something out of it. And the third goal of our team is to be really active like we were in California - almost every day we had someone in the break, so that's still the same plan.
AS: You know some of the finales from when you are here a few years ago, which stages are you looking at that might suit you?
CD: Like I said, I think there are 3 or 4 stages that can suit me, it just depends on how I feel. From looking at the map tomorrow, the first day looks the same (finish in Macon,) so I know that circuit, kinda hard so I could be good and I think the 2nd day's the same too (finish in Rome) - I've done that course before so we'll see.
AS: Physically how close to 100% are you?
CD: Well I'm not there yet, that's for sure, you know. I'm surging, I'm coming back. I had a little bit of pneumonia that kind of slowed me down a month ago but now I'm coming back from that. I'll need a little bit more time but it's coming.
AS: How about mentally, after essentially a lost year in 2006 - are you back?
CD: No, it's gonna take a little time again, but not in too long, I should be good so that's positive.
AS: You left the Protour, so how important are races like this and the Amgen Tour of California, where the ProTour teams are racing?
CD: Yeah, I'm happy, Georgia's one of the big tours of the year, a lot of Euro teams, Saunier Duval is here. So yeah, I'd like to go well, yeah... I want to show them I can go well.
AS: Ryder Hesjedal is the only other Canadian here. Do you keep an eye on how he does?
CD: Yeah he's here and hopefully he's gonna have a good race because in the final we're all chasing the UCI points for the Olympics and all of that so I wish him a good race.
AS: Given that, how important was Svein Tuft's win last week in Richmond?
CD: It was good, I'm happy for him. He's going well, (winning) that and Cuba, at least someone is getting the points so hopefully I can turn around and gain some points for the country now.
AS: Are you following the Stanley Cup playoffs?
CD: Since the Canadiens are not in I guess I'm following it that much but a little bit. I don't follow hockey a whole lot but I like to play though.
AS: When was the last time you played?
CD: Oh a long time ago but maybe later I'll play again.
AS: Maybe after you retire.
CD: Yeah exactly.
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