Ryder Hesjedal heads into the Tour de France stronger than he was when he won the Giro d'Italia one month ago. He doesn't say it directly, but his idea is to win the race and become the first double winner since 1998.
Since winning the Giro d'Italia in May, he's been training at his Euro-base in Girona, Spain. As with the Giro, he avoided travelling and previewing the important mountain stages to focus on his training and recovery. Part of that is riding the Rocacorba climb to the northwest of Girona to test his strength. He's faster than ever before.
Prior to other editions of the Tour de France, his best time was 29-06 minutes up the climb. This last week, it was almost a minute and a half faster, 27-44. He attributes the gain to being lighter, now just below 70kg, and maintaining his power.
"I did the same power on this climb, but two kilograms lighter," he said. "That's just science, you're just faster."
He spoke to a handful of journalists after the Garmin press conference. Inside the team's hotel, General Manager Jonathan Vaughters just unveiled the team's new kit reflecting new co-sponsor, Sharp. It's black, blue and white, maintains a bit of argyle, but now has a touch of red for the electronics company. It should help viewers easily recognise Canada's first Grand Tour winner.
"We have someone who we feel can be on the final podium in the Tour de France," Vaughters said. "That will be the first and foremost objective."
Hesjedal, 31, is ready for the challenge based on Rocacorba.
"It's a small indicator, but also an important one because it is a half an hour threshold climb and you do it on a regular basis," Hesjedal continued with Cycling Weekly and others out front. "It's simple, you take a minute and a half off a half-hour climb, I think that was the difference in the Giro, from winning in the front with the climbers from losing contact, coming in about 40 seconds to a minute behind like in other [races before]."
He placed seventh in the Tour two years ago. He suffered last year, but continued strongly in the third week. His body is evolving and his confidence rising.
"I did what I needed to do to be the leader in the Giro. I started the Giro around 71kg, got down to 69, around there, and I just stayed at that weight. That was indicator that the weight loss was not forced. When it plateaus and you are doing the same power, that's the difference."
Besides the name, the team differs from the Italian tour. Hesjedal says it lacks the horsepower it had for the Giro in the flats, but makes up for in the mountains. Christian Vande Velde is still in, but now Tom Danielson and Dan Martin will help in the mountains. Tyler Farrar will sprint, but also help deliver Hesjedal to the mountains with Robbie Hunter, Johan Vansummeren, David Zabriskie and David Millar.
The powerful team should stand its own against Bradley Wiggins (Sky) and Cadel Evans (BMC Racing).
"I haven't seen Cadel and those guys yet," said Hesjedal. "I raced the riders at the Giro and I respect them very much. The level there was the highest at that time. We'll see how everyone's prepared for the Tour. I do feel like I'm on level with anybody" here at the Tour.
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