Defending champion Ryder Hesjedal (Garmin-Sharp), despite significant losses in the last two days, believes the Giro d'Italia remains wide open. Based on the last nine days, he expects fireworks now that the race has entered the high mountains.
He spoke with Cycling Weekly during the race's first rest day yesterday, his usual slow, friendly voice trickling through the phone line.
"Everyone has been racing every day like every moment is important, and that adds up," he told Cycling Weekly yesterday. "It's going to be interesting going forward if you look at what has already transpired in the last nine days."
After nine days down south over flats and medium mountains, the race enters the Alps. Today's 167-kilometre stage climbs Cason di Lanza and finishes on Altopiano del Montasio at 1519 metres.
Vincenzo Nibali (Astana) leads the race by 29 seconds over Cadel Evans (BMC). Ryder Hesjedal (Garmin-Sharp) sits in 11th place at 3-11 minutes.
Nibali, according to Hesjedal, will feel the burden of being race leader in Italy's famous maglia rosa.
"I know what I already felt like after the first week last year. You want to respect the jersey and your team, but it has its toll," he added. "We'll find out how long he'll be able to hold the jersey and what it means. Right now, though, I wouldn't want my team to worry about holding the jersey."
Under the radar and fighting back
The Canadian flew in under the radar in this year's Giro d'Italia with talk mostly centred on Bradley Wiggins (Sky) and Vincenzo Nibali (Astana). However, he is just as determined to win his second Giro title.
"I'm a Grand Tour winner, man, winning the Giro was no small feat," he said.
"I don't pay attention to what others are talking about, it has no bearing on what I do or what I need to do," explained Hesjedal. "Last year, I took great satisfaction in proving everyone wrong."
He won by a slender 16 seconds over Spain's Joaquím Rodríguez (Katusha) last year. It was a dog-fight for seconds all the way from the stage four team time trial in Verona.
He is down by just over three minutes this year, losing 2-13 minutes in the Saltara time trial and 1-06 on the roads to Florence. He was dropped on the last short climb heading into Florence after his team helped to drive the pace with Wiggins behind.
"The best I can figure was that I went deep in the time trial and had TT butt, where you have no power on the steep climbs. I just couldn't recoup for the downhill," Hesjedal added.
"People keep saying my time trial was bad, but I've never won big time trial like that, I've always given up time to the likes of Bradley and Cadel. Vincenzo is probably in the form of his life, so you can't compare to him. I'm actually happy with my time trial; there's been time trials where I've given up more time than that."
Looking at today's stage profile, he chuckled about the time trial. "That's already long gone," he said, hoping the mountains in these two weeks help him win another Giro d'Italia.
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Giro d'Italia 2013: Previews and race info
Giro d'Italia 2013: Coverage index
Giro d'Italia 2013: British TV schedule
Giro 2013: 10 things you need to know
Giro d'Italia 2013: The Big Preview
Giro d'Italia 2013: Stage reports
Stage nine: Belkov takes solo win as Wiggins put under pressure
Stage eight: Dowsett wins as Nibali takes race lead
Stage seven: Wiggins crashes as Hansen wins
Stage six: Cavendish wins stage six of Giro
Stage five: Degenkolb avoids crash to take win
Stage four: Battaglin sprints to first Giro stage win
Stage three: Paolini takes charge
Stage two: Sky wins team time trial
Stage one: Cavendish wins opener
Giro d'Italia 2013: Photo galleries
Photos by Graham Watson
Stage nine gallery
Stage eight gallery
Stage seven gallery
Stage six gallery
Stage five gallery
Stage four gallery
Stage three gallery
Stage two gallery
Stage one gallery
Team presentation gallery
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