Posted by Editor on 06/27/09
This week, Ryder Hesjedal was selected by his Garmin-Slipstream team to be a member of their Tour de France squad. This came a few days after he finished 18th at the Tour de Suisse; his team's highest finisher. We spoke with Ryder at his Spanish home in Girona.
Canadian Cyclist: So, congratulations. You seemed a pretty sure thing for selection.
Ryder Hesjedal: Thanks a lot, it's great to be doing my second Tour. I wasn't worried about being selected, but when you stop competition, you never know. It's always tricky to take a break and then start again at a high level, so it was clear that I needed to be at a high level at Suisse.
But the team had confidence in me, and I was pleased to find that I was getting stronger through [Tour de Suisse], which solidified the selection. It sets things up nicely to be coming up to a higher level for the Tour.
CC: Let's talk a bit about your non-selection for the Giro. You were planning to do the Giro right up until the last days, and then abruptly no more Giro. What happened?
RH: Yeah, it was always on my program in my season planning to not do the Giro, to do a more progressive season, but the team wanted [me at] the Giro. But then after the Ardennes races [Flanders, Liege, etc.] the team had enough strong guys to build a good Giro roster [without me]. So, they gave me the option to take a break. The decision was made with them to take the break and train and prepare, to get get ready for the Tour. That's pro cycling - there are 28 to 30 guys on a team, so it can shuffle all the time.
The change is for the better in my eyes, because I'm coming [out of Suisse] at a very high level right now.
CC: Christian [Vande Velde - Tour leader on the team] is still working his way back from injury [numerous fractures in a crash on stage 3 of the Giro], so is that going to make a change to the team's strategy? Could we see you in more of a GC role?
RH: Not at the moment. I sat down with Matt [White - Directeur Sportif] today, and what we have to do is wait and see how Christian is doing. It's very encouraging how he's going, and he could be right in there. So the plan is always to continue to support him as much as possible.
As for other strategies, clearly Tyler [Farrar] is the man for the sprints. And there's a lot of days, hard days, where it is right for breaks to get away. I'm one of the guys suited for those days.
Team Garmin-Slipstream is going for stage wins, and that's what I'm going to be looking at. I'd rather be an opportunistic stage hunter, and support Christian for the GC, where he is capable of a top-5 or top-3.
CC: We also thought Svein Tuft would be joining you for the Tour, but I guess his recovery from the Tour of California crash hasn't progressed as fast as expected.
RH: I honestly don't know a lot of the details, and I haven't raced with him since March. I'm sure that there are valid reasons that he was left off the roster. He would have been great, though. He's a very good rider and would have been a great team mate. I was hoping he would be there, but that's the way it goes. There's still lots of racing to come for him this season.
CC: Since this is your second Tour, I'm sure that you were able to make use of your experience last year to prepare. How has it changed your preparation
RH: For sure. Any time you do one of these monuments of cycling the first time it forces you to adjust your perceptions, it changes you as a rider. After the first one it changes your goals and your comfort level. And, the more comfortable you can be, the better off you are - it reduces the energy you uses, mentally and physically.
The way I approached this whole season, based on last year, gave me confidence. I'm very motivated for this Tour, to have a great Tour de France. We have great motivation as a team, based on last year.
I just kept the energy going after last year - which was a huge year with the Giro, the Tour and the Olympics - and focussed on 2009.
I'm 28 years old now, and I think my best years are still coming. That keeps you motivated and improving. It's infectious the way it goes.
CC: So between now and the start in Monaco on July 4th, what's your program?
RH: I've been recovering since Suisse, just listening to the body. We leave on Monday [June 29th] to do some reconnaissance through France.
CC: Will you check out some of the climbs?
RH: Not really, I've seen a few doing races in the past, and we aren't doing a ton of recon for specific stage details. The team time trial is very important to us, so we'll do some work there, and I'm familiar, of course, with the stages that go through Girona and Barcelona. I'm at ease with this; I don't need to know the route day by day. It just turns into a blur any ways [laughs].
CC: Finally, what are your personal goals, what do you want to accomplish this Tour?
RH: Just perform at my best. Going through the bad days in a good way, making them positive; the good days are easy. I'm optimistic that this will be the best ever so far in my career, my best day ever on a bike will come.
If it means helping Christian in GC, helping a team mate win a stage or setting myself up for that, that's all I can hope for. It's the biggest event in the world, so to perform there is the ultimate. It's just as simple as that.
I won't lie, I'm hungry for a victory. I think I'm capable, and the opportunities will come.
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