The Giro d’Italia, or the Tour of Italy, is speaking English this year thanks to the rides of Taylor Phinney, Mark Cavendish, Matt Goss and now, Ryder Hesjedal. The Garmin-Barracuda rider became the first Canadian to take the leader’s pink jersey today in Rocca di Cambio.
“The Giro d’Italia was my first Grand Tour. I remember, I crashed hard that year in 2005, but continued. I eventually had to leave the race the day Paolo Savoldelli took the pink jersey,” Hesjedal said in a post race press conference.
“I’ve had some of my best results here in Italy, I was eighth overall in Tirreno-Adriatico, a race I respect very much. That result told me I was back at a highest level and where I was supposed to be.”
Hesjedal grew up mountain biking around Victoria, British Columbia in Canada. Trips racing in the World Cups in Europe, opened his eyes to the European road scene. Thanks to his sponsor Gary Fisher, he had a connection to Trek and a chance to turn professional with US Postal in 2004.
His ride was rough, crashing out of the Giro in 2005, riding for Phonak as it imploded due to a doping scandal. A year back home helped him re-focus and come back new with Jonathan Vaughters’ Garmin team. In 2008, he placed eighth in Tirreno and rode the Giro, helping Garmin win the team time trial in its first Grand Tour.
This year, Garmin’s team time trial win and the squad’s assistance throughout stage seven helped 31-year-old Hesjedal take the pink jersey. He stayed close to the lead since the Verona test on Wednesday and today, he pulled back the 17 seconds on Adriano Malori (Lampre-ISD) to take the pink jersey.
He explained that Canada will be happy for him, its biggest cycling export since Steve Bauer. “I think they are going to know a lot about it [the Giro] now.”
Besides Hesjedal, USA’s Phinney (BMC) led the race for three days. Native English speakers, Cavendish (Sky) and Goss (Orica) won three stages between them. New race director, Michele Acquarone wants the race to grow abroad and will certainly be pleased with their rides.