Posted by Editor on 07/23/09
We spoke with Ryder Hesjedal (Garmin-Slipstream) yesterday evening after stage 17 of the Tour de France - the hardest of the race. Hesjedal - Canada's only rider in the Tour this year - finished a strong 26th on the stage.
Canadian Cyclist: So you made it through the toughest stage, and had a pretty good result.
Ryder Hesjedal: Yeah, it was pretty good. I just made sure that I was there for the guys for the second to last climb, when all the fireworks started to happen. After I had done my bit, I just settled into my own rhythm, and managed to hook up with a group for the rest of the stage. It was a good day.
CC: How does the Tour this year compare to last; with Lance Armstrong there are you noticing any differences?
RH: As a team, we are riding as one of the best in the race, which is pretty awesome. So it's a different race when you are at the front every day, and you have important objectives. The team is at a higher level this year, I think the racing is harder and the terrain is pretty epic.
There are a lot of people [spectators] for sure, they're everywhere, but I can't really say that they are noticeably bigger crowds than last year.
CC: You were in a strong break Sunday, which looked like it had some staying power for quite a while.
RH: It was a hard day, for sure. We went into the Alps, with a hilltop finish. It was crucial that we had representation in the break, and that was my main role. The group was solid, and the only thing that messed it up was Astarloza (Euskatel-Euskadi), because he was too much of a danger [on GC]. It would have been nice to battle for the stage, but it wasn't to be.
CC: Going into the Tour, the team leader was Christian Vande Velde, but it has turned out that Bradley Wiggins is your top guy - is that a bit of a surprise?
RH: There have certainly been signs, indications that Brad is moving up to that level, but to be podium level is a bit unexpected. He is obviously a big talent, and the signs were that he was turning into a road racer. The team gave him the opportunity, and it has taken the pressure of Christian after his non-optimal preparation [a bad crash and fractures at eh Giro earlier in the season].
CC: What about your role? Is it developing the way you expected?
RH: I help out all day, however I can. It could be getting bottles, or to be in a break. The team looks to me to be there as late as possible in the race, when it really starts throwing down.
CC: When we spoke before the Tour, you said the team was planning to be opportunistic, going for stage wins. Has that all changed with Brad sitting so high?
RH: We are focussing on the GC. With a guy hovering close to the podium for almost three weeks after getting third in the opening time trial, that's an obvious decision. But we are still looking for stages, with Tyler [Farrar] finishing in sprints as close as possible to Cav [Mark Cavendish], it means we can look to individual stages, GC and everything in between.
CC: Tomorrow [Thursday] is the longest time trial, what are your expectations?
RH: I'll just try to do the minimum, and recover for Saturday, which is the final big day [up Mont Ventoux].
CC: So has the Tour been virtually conceded to Alberto Contador?
RH: Unless he has a horrific day on the bike, I think it is over. He was able to handle the Schleck tag team today [Wednesday], and it's clear he can't be beaten in the mountains. But until anyone stands on the podium at the end in Paris, nothing's for sure.
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