Ryder Hesjedal became the first Canadian Grand Tour winner today in the Giro d’Italia. He surpassed Joaquin Rodriguez in the final time trial in Milan to win by 16 seconds.
It was a race of seconds from day one in Herning, Denmark. Team Garmin-Barracuda’s Hesjedal put 14 seconds into Rodriguez of team Katusha. Rodriguez held tight, placed second, but still lost five seconds in the Verona team time trial. The race then headed uphill.
Hesjedal took the pink jersey in Rocca di Cambio, held it for three days until Assisi. Rodriguez won in Assisi with six seconds, a gap widened with the 20-second time bonus.
In the Alps, Hesjedal took the jersey in Cervinia by placing fourth and 26 seconds ahead. Rodríguez took it back the next day, but only by a few seconds. His advantage remained preciously small, losing 13 seconds on Alpe di Pampeago and gaining two seconds yesterday on the Stelvio Pass.
“It was just an unreal experience from day one what the team was able to do. I couldn’t have done it without them,” Hesjedal said afterwards. “I knew I was good when I came to this race. I kept focused every day, took every opportunity. The team was 100 per cent behind me, I thrived off that support. The fans back home in Canada, the support. I kept digging deeper and deeper every day.”
Hesjedal led the first foreign podium sweep since 1995, when Swiss Tony Rominger ahead of Russian Eugeni Berzin and Latvian Piotr Ugrumov. Only twice has a rider from outside Eurasia won the race: 1987 with Ireland’s Stephen Roche and 1988 with USA’s Andy Hampsten.
“We came with the objectives to be good in the first week – the prologue [stage 1 time trial], the first flat stages, the team time trial – we got that,” Garmin’s sports director, Allan Peiper said yesterday. “The guys just rode steadily. Christian [Vande Velde] said this team has never ridden like this before… and never taken control of the race. They have always been in the race, but never were the big boys. With the team we had, we used our resources to the maximum. It’s been wonderful to be part of that.”
Hesjedal lost team-mate Tyler Farrar to a crash in the sixth leg to Porto Sant’Elpidio. He pushed on with seven other team-mates, only losing Robert Hunter in yesterday’s stage. Christian Vande Velde and Peter Stetina helped him through the mountains, helped him become the first Canadian named on the Giro’s spiral trophy.
“It’s hard to describe [the emotions] for me. It’s a dream come true,” Hesjedal said. “Since the first day I pulled on the jersey, I believed I had a chance. My rivals showed me respect, it was just something that made me stronger. To be able to compete with them was the highlight of my career so far.”
Giro d’Italia 2012: Latest news
Giro d’Italia 2012: Live coverage
Giro d’Italia 2012: Stage reports
Stage 21: Hesjedal wins 2012 Giro d’Italia overall as Pinotti wins final time trial
Stage 20: De Gendt conquers Stelvio to win stage
Stage 19: Kreuziger bounces back with Giro stage win
Stage 18: Guardini beats Cavendish in final Giro sprint
Stage 17: Rodriguez wins stage to consolidate lead
Stage 16: Izagirre claims Basque breakaway victory
Stage 15: Rabottini takes tough win in Giro
Stage 14: Amador wins Giro’s first high mountain stage as Hesjedal reclaims lead
Stage 13: Cavendish makes it three
Stage 12: Bak attacks to win
Stage 11: Ferrari wins Giro stage on ride to redemption
Stage 10: Rodriguez wins thrilling finale to take lead
Stage nine: Ventoso wins in Frosinone as Goss and Cavendish fall
Stage eight: Pozzovivo takes another Giro win
Stage seven: Hesjedal moves into Giro lead
Stage six: Rubiano solos to epic Giro stage win
Stage five: Cavendish bounces back for another stage win
Stage four: Garmin-Barracuda win TTT to take lead
Stage three: Goss wins in Horsens as Cavendish and Phinney crash
Stage two: Cavendish wins in Herning
Stage one: Phinney wins time trial
Giro d’Italia 2012: Photo galleries
Giro d’Italia 2012: Blogs
Charly Wegelius’ Giro blog: Conserving energy for the final week
Charly Wegelius’ Giro blog: Holding on to the lead
Charly Wegelius’ Giro blog: Getting the team time trial right
Giro moto blog: Hurray for rest day
Giro moto blog: Stage 10
Giro d’Italia 2012: Teams and riders
Giro d’Italia 2012: TV guide