May 16, 2010 (Sacramento, CA) – Last season was a breakthrough year for Canada’s Ryder Hesjedal (Garmin-Transitions) winning a stage at the Vuelta and the Victoria, BC rider is off to another great start this season landing on the podium at Amstel Gold along with a number of top 10 finishes. We caught up with Hesjedal on a crisp, hot day in Sacramento prior to Stage 1 of the the Tour of California.
Did SpiderTech p/b Planet Energy try to catch you in their web?
Ryder Hesjedal: Not really, its great to see their program growing and their ambitions growing as well. I hope everything falls into place for them so they can compete in more races at the upper echelon. So far they’ve had a strong start, it’s a big step for them. Wit Steve Bauer in charge and so much support for a Canadian team, I hope they continue to progress. I know what its like to start with a team from scratch and for it to build into something bigger.
You’re the only Canadian on Garmin and SpiderTech has only one American on its squad – you don’t want to switch and fill out the Canadian roster?
RH: (laughing) No! I’m fine here!
At start of 2010 and the spring Classics, your season has been even stronger than previous years.
RH: This year has been full and successful. There’s a lot of components to putting a good year together, Blending hard racing with form building is a puzzle, trying to figure out how much of a load you can strap on. When I first saw the foundation of 2010 program, Tirreno, Tour of Catalunya, and Pais Basque shortly after that, I was happy and felt ready for challenges like that.
Were you ready for such a heavy load this year?
RH: My form came a bit later, I needed one more stage race in my legs (in Tirreno). Unlike the last few years where I was out in front, I backed off a bit in Tirreno this year, so of course my job was to help Tyler Farrar for the last day. Still, for me, the Italian portion was already a success.
What motivates you for each race? Is it your results from the former year in the same race or is it your previous race results? Or does it always come down to your training/form/rest quotient?
RH: The motivation for me was to do better than 8th in Tirreno and that didn’t happen so I went to Catalunya to prove myself, and did well in three stages, ended up 6th overall, and had three good top ten stages. But I’d say all those factors you mentioned came into play. Certainly my mental state was to improve after Tirenno.
You ride well in all categories, do you see yourself as a GC rider or a freelancing specialist?
RH: I like to ride in any capacity. In Tirreno and San Remo I’m the only guy on the team in those races who rides general so it’s fun. As most of the Classics guys aren’t competitors for GC, they’re there to train for the Northern Classics, so I’m a freelancer in the Italian races, and it’s perfect training for Catalunya.
The stage races sort themselves out early on. With a prologue myself and [David] Zabriskie and [Christian] Vande Velde are there with everyone giving it their best shot. I was set up high for GC and the rest of the cards fell into place, that’s how confidence builds and I have the legs and team to keep myself in the top ten mix. That’s the rock of this team, we have depth and cohesion like a few teams.
Where would you competing now if you didn’t come to the Tour of California?
RH: This is easy to be here and it fits better with the Tour switching from February. Last year it was the same: I stopped after the Liege race, went to Maui for rest and training and then the Tour de Suisse, but essentially I kept the same plan. But I plan to be a big part of this week for my team.
What about when it comes to supporting you?
RH: I’ve got great support when needed: Vande Velde , Millar, Z, and the others, I’m well-covered, and sure, I’ m ready to always return the favour.
As a talented GC rider, why did you decide to work with a start up Pro-Continental team like Garmin-Transitions?
RH: I’ve been really content as a rider since 2008, I started with this team at the ground level in 2007 and we started with big ambitions and it’s really working well. Funny, as I’ve worked just as hard when I was younger and some of the pieces didn’t work out – you can’t control the outcome. It doesn’t matter if you work in an office or ride a bike, you have to be happy and comfortable, and I liked this team’s vision and camaraderie. When the pieces fit like they do here, it’s really satisfying because more times than not, it doesn’t work out how you want.
The first year in 2007, we were a Continental Pro team going to all the invites. As a wild card at the Giro last year and winning the Team time trial, that began to define us – and as a Canadian that became a defining time for me. Then when Christian just missed the podium a month later at the Tour de France, it’s quite a story to go in just a few years from a Pro Continental team to a serious competitor in every race. It means a lot to me and I don’t want to stop anytime soon with Garmin-Transitions.
Where do you want to go from here? Are there certain markers ahead on your shortlist?
RH: I’m gonna be 30 in December, and have been doing this since I can remember. If you can get through the hard parts, still learning and improving, that’s what it takes to last and be a contender for years. I feel my best years are still to come.
For you what’s the hard stuff, what turns on your pain register?
RH: In general I prefer real hard races, I love long selective days, and really, if I can be in the final selections for the Ardennes Classics in Europe, I think I can be there here as well. I love to climb, I love the heat, and it looks like this Tour will have a lot of both!
What are your personal goals at the ToC?
RH: At this point, [David] Zabriskie is our main focus, and our job is to protect him and so he can smash them in the TT after that Big Bear mountain top finish. He’s going to have to save himself and his energy. That’s our team’s task to help him do that, save his legs after that brutal day, get him over that hump. If that doesn’t work, we’ll see how the cards are played. But it’s a long week, anything can happen and if anything opens up for me, I feel ready to take it and go.
The sprints are up during the first few days – are they are on your radar?
RH: The first few days could be good for me, but I’ll just wait to see how it unfolds, we’ll see what opens up.
That’s a great ring you’re wearing with a gold cyclist engraved on it.
RH: (takes it off and hands it to me, it’s heavy gold) My Father made it for me after Bejing, pretty nice eh?
Yes really nice – hope it brings you luck. All the best at the Tour and the rest of this season.