July 28, 2011 (Biarritz, France) – After 21 stages covering 3,430.5 kilometres at the Tour de France, Ryder Hesjedal finally had an opportunity to take a short break. His fourth Tour de France had some ups (3rd place in Stage 16) and some downs (a crash in Stage 7.) But his team, Garmin-Cervélo, was successful, no matter how you measure that word: 4 stage wins (1 Team Time Trial, 1 for Tyler Farrar, 2 for Thor Hushovd,) 7 days in the yellow jersey (Hushovd,) 9th on GC (Tom Danielson) and last, but definitely not least, Team GC champions.
We wanted to get some of Ryder’s post-Tour thoughts about his individual and team experiences, and emailed him asking for a little phone time. It was morning on the West Coast and evening in Europe when I got an email from him saying that he had some time. So I grabbed my coffee and dialed his number:
Hi, it’s Amy, how are you?
Ryder Hesjedal: Fine, thanks.
Where are you now?
RH: Biarritz, same as last year. I come down here before (Clasica Ciclista) San Sebastian, it’s only an hour away. It’s a great place to relax and keep the legs moving, and then head down to the race on Saturday.
The last time we spoke was on the second rest day. The following day was Stage 16 to Gap – the pace was scorching and the peloton wasn’t letting any breaks get away for 100k. Finally a break stuck, with you and Thor in it. Talk about how that break established with both of you in there.
RH: Oh, just a lot of suffering. I can’t ever remember it taking that long for a break to go – 100 kilometres it took finally. A lot of energy was spent and a lot of guys were racing for that, when everyone feels that there’s a good chance for a break to make it to the line you can see how hard the racing is…so yeah, 100 kilometres until it went. We finally got in there, especially with Thor, that was huge, it felt like a victory just to get in the breakaway. Quite quickly we had a good gap and there was definitely nothing left from behind. I thought we could get to the finish with a chance and we could sit tight and play our cards on the last climb. Obviously we did that and went over in the lead (Ryder was with Mikhail Ignatiev for a while and then alone out front after that) and I was dreaming of victory. That was cut short by seeing Edvald (Boasson Hagen) come from behind with Thor on his wheel, but that quickly turned into winning the stage for one of us. Clearly Edvald was very strong so we had to just tactically make sure that we set it up perfectly for Thor and that’s what we did. It was an awesome day to get the stage win, to push the race and we took a big step toward (winning) the Team GC with both of us finishing almost 5 minutes ahead of the rest. It was just an awesome day to start the last week!
We could see you celebrating as Thor crossed the line in first.
RH: Oh yeah!
I found a website called “News and Views from Norway” and they were quick to point out that Hesjedal is a Norwegian name so with Thor and Edvald, Norwegians swept the podium.
RH: Yeah, (laughs) I saw that, too. Definitely my ancestors are from Norway and the name’s Norwegian so yeah, three guys up there, pretty cool!
Then a couple of days later was the epic stage that finished on the Galibier. Garmin-Cervélo had fantastic results in a brutal stage – tell me about that and how you, Tom Danielson and Christian Vande Velde were all able to finish in the top 12.
RH: Again, suffering, pushing hard and just focusing on the goal to be up there and knowing we could be up there, that was part of the process for the team GC. And then also supporting Tom’s ride in the top 10 (overall.) So I was really happy to have the legs on a brutal day and climb that well and be top 10 on the Galibier. It was a great day, for all of us to be close together,
And then l’Alpe de Huez came the next day. You told me that the last time you raced there, in 2008, you were alone in no-man’s land.
RH: Ha ha, yeah.
This time you were in the middle of the action – you were in the lead for a while and eventually finished 10th on the day. Talk about how good you felt there.
RH: It was just a continuation of the day before. I was riding well, I was where I wanted to be the third week of the race. The pace was full on, full gas right away. To go over the top already in a small group, I knew it was an explosive day and to be able to be up there with Tom, there were only a handful of us up there over the top of the Galibier (the 2nd climb of the stage)…I just knew that it was going to be a good day. (Ivan) Basso was behind, kind of the closest guy for Tom to get over (on GC) so I did a lot of work on the descent, really pushing that group – we were in all the way until we caught Andy and Alberto’s group. To be racing like that was great and I was able to respond to Pierre’s (eventual stage winner Rolland’s) attack right away at the dam there, with a little bit more to go until we got to the base of Alpe d’Huez so I figured I’d go for it, put the pressure on the front of the race. Tom was in that group and where he needed to be so, yeah, I had a go at it, and to get to the base of Alpe d’Huez first with one other guy to start the climb – I’ll always remember that. It was pretty powerful and exciting to begin the climb that way and ride the way I did and to have the big favourites and contenders and leaders of the race come from behind. Even with that effort, to stay with the Evans/Schleck group was just an epic climb and Tom was able to get up to me and to be there at the finish with him right to the line was another huge example of how strong the team was and the depth. Christian wasn’t far behind, after already working for Tom at the base as well so that pretty much sealed up the team (GC competition) for us. Yeah, to do another Top 10 the next day on Alpe d’Huez – so I have Galibier, Tourmalet (where he finished 4th last year) and now Alpe d’Huez top 10 rides, so I’m pretty happy with that!
During the climb, every time you were on TV Phil Liggett kept talking about the hundreds of Canadians who were at the top of Alpe d’Huez that would greet you. Did you see them?
RH: Oh for sure, you can’t miss the flags! They were there waiting for me at the entrance of the hotel and at the finish area. That’s nothing new – the supporters are there and I appreciate it and I see ‘em. It just makes it that much more rewarding when you see people are there enjoying it.
Team Garmin-Cervelo had a great Tour: Team time trial victory, Tyler with a stage win, Thor with two wins, a third place for you, Thor with seven days in Yellow, Tom 9th on GC, Team GC champions. Talk about the pride you feel in the team gelled at the Tour de France.
RH: That’s what we work hard for. It’s nice when it happens and your hard work comes through on the biggest stage in cycling, that’s what we do it for. To be a part of that and be there and have it happen, I’m fortunate and I’m grateful. Nothing’s guaranteed, especially in this sport. To have the ride that we did – we were on the podium on the second day and on the podium the last day, on the Champs (Élysées) – it was just a complete Tour. I think everyone’s going to carry the motivation from this race forward for a long time and that’s what you need to keep working hard.
You’ve been on the podium in many races, including the Giro d’Italia. What does it feel like to stand on the podium at the Tour de France on the Champs-Élysées?
RH: Oh, it’s just awesome! The end of the Tour, that day, is awesome no matter what. To finish, to push on the Champs, to get it done. But to be in the ceremony and be on the podium, it’s unreal. What can I say? A lot of things that you think about or envision coming true and it’s a really nice way to finish it off. To have the whole team up there, because it was really a team Tour as far as our success – it was just a perfect, perfect finish.
What’s next for you?
RH: San Sebastian, then back to North America. For sure Colorado (USA Pro Cycling Challenge,) waiting to hear about (the Tour of) Utah and then taking a big crack at the Canadian races (GP Quebec and Montreal) once again.
Do you bring confidence and form from how you did at the Tour?
RH: Oh yeah, I think I showed I’m at my strongest as the race goes on and I use that form the rest of the season when I come out of the Tour. I was 5th at Stan Sebastian in ’09 and 6th last year and I carried that right through to the Canadian races last year and likewise in ’09 in the Vuelta (a España) so I plan on being very strong for the rest of this year and finishing it off.
Great job at the Tour, thanks for all your time throughout the race and good luck the rest of the season.
RH: All right Amy, thanks!