Canadian Ryder Hesjedal started the Tour de France as Christian Vande Velde’s mountain man, but now finds himself battling for a top ten overall while Vande Velde watches from home.
Vande Velde abandoned the Tour de France on the third day to Spa due to a crash and two broken ribs. Hesjedal quickly took up responsibility of the team’s overall contender, with Vande Velde calling frequently with advice.
“The last thing he wants to do is be going through the Tour de France mentally when he is at home,” explained Hesjedal. “Though, I heard from him a lot when he first dropped out. I am sure he sees that I am fine and doing my best.”
Hesjedal showed Vande Velde he is up to his best today. He went on the attack today with Alexandre Vinokourov, Andreas Klöden and Vasil Kiryienka, hoping to gain some time in the classification or a stage win. However, it didn’t work. The favourites group caught Hesjedal, and the other three, on the closing climb.
It was a risky move for a rider sitting in the top 20 overall and with the four Pyrenean stages to come, but Hesjedal was please with his aggression.
“I would rather race than sit and follow. Some people might say that is stupid, but I am here to race and I’d rather be out front taking my chances,” Hesjedal explained.
“I am not scared, even with the hardest days of the Tour de France coming up.”
Four of the hardest days are coming in the Pyrenees, beginning with Sunday’s stage to Ax 3 Domaines. Hesjedal sits 13th overall, 6’25” behind leader Andy Schleck and over a minute ahead of former team-mate, Sky’s Bradley Wiggins.
“I don’t think I am ‘racing’ against him at the moment, but we have been surviving together. We just happened to be with each other on the end of the Alpine stages,” Hesjedal continued.
“The sport changes every year. If you get fourth one year, obviously you have to prepare and try to come back to improve. He said immediately after his first few tests [stages in the race] that he doesn’t not think he is capable of going with the top guys.
“I never came here with a top ten in mind. Maybe if I had been thinking about it all year and now to be here, then maybe that would be different.”
Is a top ten possible for Hesjedal?
“I think so,” he said. “It is a nice goal to shoot for.”
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