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Interview with Ryder Hesjedal – Rest Day at the Tour

by Amy Smolens

July 12, 2011 (Saint-Flour, France) – When we last left Ryder Hesjedal, he was on a high that can only be produced by having the yellow jersey on one’s team, in this case on the back of Thor Hushovd. Champagne was in Hesjedal’s immediate future. Since then, it’s been a week full of ups and downs. The top moment was Tyler Farrar winning his first ever Tour stage, thanks in part to fine teamwork by Garmin-Cervélo. There were various low moments, most being crash-related, as few riders made it through the first week unscathed. The lowest point for the team was Stage 9, in which workhorse Dave Zabriskie was forced to abandon after a crash and Hushovd lost the yellow jersey to Thomas Voeckler (Fra) Europcar. Monday’s rest day was well timed, and we spoke to Ryder, who was relaxing in his hotel room in the Cantal Region of France.
Hi, Ryder.
Ryder Hesjedal: Hey there!

I imagine today was a very welcome rest day for you.
RH: Yeah, I needed it for sure. Certainly the last couple days have been pretty hard. For me personally, too, crashing on Stage 7 there, and then you add two real hard days. So for the body a couple days later is usually the worst point – especially when you start racing directly after, there’s no chance to really recover. So I was suffering pretty good yesterday, but I managed to get through and now can enjoy today.

What happened in that crash in Stage 7?
RH: It’s the Tour, there are crashes occurring all the time. I got pushed off the road. I was just kind of behind the bulk of it and was trying to avoid it off to the side. I got hit from behind and that’s what sent me flying the worst and I went down in a big ditch with a bunch of guys. I did a full flip onto my back and neck and had a pretty high speed impact. Luckily the ditch was grass and dirt but it still was a pretty high speed impact and I had bottles up in my jersey so there was more impact on my back and neck, and other stuff on the legs and that sort of stuff from being on the ground.

Are you still feeling the effects of that?
RH: Oh yeah, my back’s definitely sore, there’s discomfort, it’s hard to move my neck around and my back is tight. There’s tissue damage on the muscles and there’s a lot of pain on the upper back, and that comes into play when you’re still trying to race in the Tour.

One good thing did happen last week -Tyler won the sprint for his first stage win at the Tour. Talk about the teamwork Garmin-Cervélo showed for Tyler that day.
RH: Yeah, we’ve been doing that a lot, delivering him to the line and doing what we have to do making sure it’s a sprint (finish). It worked out perfectly, the last guys in the lead-out delivered him. Anytime you’ve got Thor in there and (David) Millar and (Julian) Dean, you just gotta let him go with 300 metres left and he got the job done. When it all comes together that way with the team controlling and defending the yellow jersey and making sure it comes down to a sprint and you pull it off at the end, that’s all you can ask for. It’s pretty sweet, especially after winning the Team Time Trial the day before. That was an exciting couple of days!

Talk about the fatigue of defending the yellow jersey day after day.
RH: Yeah, definitely the two guys riding the most have been (Dave) Zabriskie and Ramunas (Navardauskas) and they’ve done an unreal job. We have a team built for a lot of objectives and so we’re trying to balance and save guys where we can. We obviously have to use everyone when we need to and defend that jersey. That doesn’t happen very often so we worked really hard to keep it as long as we could. It’s been a hard first week besides that. This is the most you can probably do the first week of the Tour.

This is the first year you’ve been teammates with Thor. How impressed were you by his abilities in both flat and hilly stages, and his ride on Stage 8 to Super-Besse, when many thought he’d lose the jersey?
RH: Yeah, he’s been riding unreal since the first day and I think he just got into a rhythm. He’s been training more for those hills – he’s not a pure sprinter, he’s focused on more power, shorter ones and that’s going to translate into being able to ride up those climbs, even when people think that he can’t. So yeah, having the yellow jersey is going to propel you a bit more, as we’ve seen many times. He’s been riding awesome and the team supported him well and allowed him to have those great rides so it’s great to be a part of that!

Yesterday in Stage 9 to Saint-Flour did you see that crash that took out Zabriskie, Vino, Van Den Broeck and others?
RH: No, no, I was in front.

How’s Dave [Zabriskie]?
RH: Actually he’s good, compared to what could be. He’s laughing and happy, it’s looking like nothing’s broken at the moment. He’s ok considering a lot worse happened to quite a few guys unfortunately. It’s been a pretty hard race so far.

When did your team decide to pull the plug on chasing [Thomas] Voeckler and the break and just let the jersey go?
RH: After a crash like that… until then we had it pretty well under control and there were teams interested in keeping that break close for a chance at the stage and everything was going fine. I think we would have kept it for another day, but when a crash like that happens and the peloton slows down you gotta realize the big picture. I think they got 4 or 5 minutes back from that (the peloton slowdown) and there’s no way to bring that back. We tried to ride and at least give it an effort, but there’s no way to pull back those kind of riders with that little time (remaining in the stage).

You guys have to feel proud of what Thor and the team did the past week.
RH: Oh yeah, we wanted to go down fighting. I mean, you gotta represent the jersey and it was fun to be up there and it’s still a good place to be on the front. We wanted to finish it off with everything we have, so that’s all you can ask for.

Now that Thor no longer has the jersey what’s the team’s focus – time to go for stages?
RH: Yeah. We have riders still close to the top 10 who have stayed out of trouble (Tom Danielson, 17th @ 4:22 and Christian Vande Velde 19th @ 4:53) and yeah, look for stages along the way and take our opportunities. There’s still a lot of racing to go so we have lots of options. This race is as wide open as it can be so we’ll take it day by day and see what happens.

Are there any stages that you think suit you for a stage win?
RH: Not really, it’s gotta work out and things just have to fall into place. Every day it changes and you just have to be read the race and be in the right place at the right time when you see an opportunity is there. We’ll see once the roads really start to go up and how it’s going.

Ok, good luck and thanks for your time.
RH: No worries, Amy. Bye bye!

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