Ryder Hesjedal's first day in the Giro d'Italia's pink jersey was not an easy one. However, he fought, he defended and, most importantly, he succeeded in maintaining his overall lead on Sunday.
His ride into the pink jersey in Rocca di Cambio yesterday, a first for a Canadian, and his brave defence yesterday proved he's in the Giro to win.
"I don't discount Ryder," Ivan Basso (Liquigas-Cannondale) told Cycling Weekly. "For me, any rider who finishes in the top 10 of the Tour de France is a serious rival."
Christian Vande Velde and Peter Stetina will help Hesjedal defend his lead through the coming week and into the first high mountains. Only then, in the first high-mountain stage to Cervinia, will we know if Hesjedal has what it takes to win the race.
"A win's a lot. He's just going to have a good Giro," Vande Velde told Cycling Weekly. "Now, I hope he's going to start to believe in himself a little bit. A lot of GC guys had hard days [over the weekend]. I think this will change his mentality."
"Maybe a couple of days ago he was doubting how far could go, but he has ridden really well the last two or three weeks and there is no reason why he couldn't be with [the favourites]," said Allan Peiper, Garmin sports director.
"Yesterday and today were two good testing days, and the fact he was there today is only a confirmation of that."
Hesjedal said he's confident in himself.
"I've always believed in myself," Hesjedal said in a post-race press conference today. "I came here to ride my best, to give my best effort, that was the goal, I feel like I'm doing that. Right now, I'm winning the Giro d'Italia, I'm happy with that. I didn't set any goals before this race, just to do my best and see where that puts me."
Basso won the Giro d'Italia twice before. He praised Hesjedal, but the Liquigas team manager, Roberto Amadio questioned him.
"He held tough today," Amadio told Cycling Weekly, "but I think it'll be tough for him in the last week."
Christian Vande Velde and Ryder Hesjedal
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Giro d'Italia 2012: Live coverage
Giro d'Italia 2012 live text coverage schedule
Giro d'Italia 2012: Stage reports
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
Stage eight photo gallery
Stage seven photo gallery
Stage six photo gallery
Stage five photo gallery
Stage four photo gallery
Stage three photo gallery
Stage two photo gallery
Stage one photo gallery
Giro d'Italia 2012: Teams and riders
Giro d'Italia 2012 start list
Giro d'Italia 2012: TV guide
Giro d'Italia 2012: British Eurosport TV schedule
Giro d'Italia 2012: The Big Preview
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