Ryder Hesjedal (Garmin-Barracuda) lit up a slow, grinding stage to the Cervinia ski resort. He flipped the Giro d’Italia classification with his attack and took the overall lead back from Joaquin Rodriguez (Katusha).
“I felt good, felt comfortable the whole way – I just figured I would try and see how the legs would respond,” the 31-year-old Canadian said in a post-stage press conference. “I knew it [the climb] eased off after three kilometres. The kilometres were clicking off – figured I would have a good go, the jersey was there for the taking.” He paused and added: “Not much to it.”
Hesjedal placed seventh in the Tour de France 2010. He took aim at the Giro d’Italia over the winter after team Garmin gave him the nod. It’s his first time to lead a team into a Grand Tour and to point towards the overall win.
He held the jersey for three days already, thanks in part to his ride in the opening time trial in Herning and Garmin’s time trial in Verona. A strong run through the southern mountains gave him the lead in Lago Laceno. He lost it to Rodríguez in Assisi on the short, steep climb to the city’s centre.
Those climbs last weekend were 1400 meters, short affairs in Italy’s Apennine mountain range, and nothing compared to the Alps. Cervinia opened a mountain run that takes the Giro from west to east, to Pampeago and ending on top of the Stelvio at 2757 metres. The only respite comes on a flat stage on Thursday and in a time trial, 30 kilometres, on the final leg in Milan next Sunday.
Judging from today, the rider from Victoria BC could be up for the challenge. He left his rivals – Ivan Basso (Liquigas-Cannondale), Roman Kreuziger (Astana) and Michele Scarponi (Lampre-ISD) included – at three kilometres out and pushed solo to the finish. He gained 26 seconds on Basso and Scarponi, and another six seconds on Kreuziger.
The GC with seven stages to race
1. Ryder Hesjedal (Garmin-Barracuda)
2. Joaquin Rodriguez (Katusha) 9″
5. Ivan Basso (Liquigas-Cannondale) 1-06
6. Roman Kreuziger (Astana) 1-07
8. Rigoberto Uran (Sky) 1-19
9. Michele Scarponi (Lampre-ISD) 1-20
15. Frank Schleck (RadioShack-Nissan) 2-20
“The race is still wide open, Kreuziger is strong; Rodriguez, Scarponi, Basso, Pozzovivo,” he paused and added, “Hesjedal.”
Teams Liquigas and Astana appear strongest and could benefit over time, but much will depend on their captains. Hesjedal has Christian Vande Velde and Peter Stetina for support in the mountains.
“This weather is perfect for him, this kind of climb is perfect for him,” Vande Velde told Cycling Weekly at the finish. “We’re all realistic. The climbs later are going to be much steeper and they’re not exactly as good for him. Anyway, it doesn’t matter, to win here you have to have form.”
“I am in the jersey, the other favourites clearly have taken control of the race, they feel they are capable of winning,” Hesjedal continued. “My team, we do not have the numbers on the climbs, I will be looking at the riders who have taken control of the race, riding to see if I can win it by Milan.”
Giro d’Italia 2012: Latest news
Giro d’Italia 2012: Live coverage
Giro d’Italia 2012: Stage reports
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: Teams and riders
Giro d’Italia 2012: TV guide