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Ryder Hesjedal Interview

March 7, 2008 – We caught up with Ryder Hesjedal by phone from his Girona, Spain training base to talk with him about his strong start to 2008 with his new Slipstream/Chipotle squad and what the future holds.

Is it nice to be back in Girona — does it feel like you’re “back home” in some ways?
Ryder Hesjedal: Yeah, I’ve spent a better part of three seasons over here, minus last year. Yeah, it’s definitely like home, comfortable and what I’m used to. Some people (on the Slipstream team) live near here, the office, the mechanics (Service Course), the warehouse and everything is here. It’s definitely an added bonus to have everyone around and it just adds that much more to the energy and the momentum of this team, it’s pretty neat.

What’s the atmosphere like on Team Slipstream?
RH: Oh, it’s been super, I can’t really imagine a better start for a year. Since November, the first team camp in Boulder, everyone was super excited and motivated and I think that really carried right through the first training camps of this season and on through the racing so far. I think the team’s really been impressive and I’ve been pretty pleased to be a part of that as well.

The team has people from various groups — guys like Magnus Backstedt and David Millar who’ve been racing primarily in Europe, guys like Timmy Duggan & Steven Cozza who’ve been with the team since they were TIAA-CREF, others, like you, Tyler Farrar, Trent Lowe. How’s the mix and how does everyone get along?
RH: Oh, I think pretty good. Most guys know each other from racing already. That’s kind of how it works, you become familiar with guys regardless of what team you’re on from racing day in and day out in the different series and what have you. Some guys know each other better than others, some have been on teams together in the past – it’s a pretty neat mix. When it was decided that the team was going to move up to this level, from where it was last year, the staff and the management had to sit down and make sure of everything including the mix of riders as it was a crucial part of the process and I think they did a pretty good job. It seems like everyone has great respect for one another and that’s what really matters with a good team.

You finished on the podium in your first race with the team, 3rd at GP d’Ouverture La Marseillaise — you really know how to take the pressure off yourself with a great start!
RH: (Laughs”¦) Yeah, we had a great group leave Silver City (New Mexico) and go straight to France and the team was really excited. We were in an aggressive mindset at the first race of the year. Some of the guys I think were even more excited than me when we finished and they knew that I was in the break and were waiting to hear what happened. I was like “Yeah, third!” And they’re like “What? Yeah!” It was more than everyone expected on that day, including myself. But you still have it in the back of your mind as that’s what you’re always setting out to do – but for it to actually happen that way was a great start for the team.

And then you followed that up with an excellent showing last week at the Vuelta a la Comunidad Valenciana. In Stage 3, the Queen Stage of the race with four categorized climbs, you placed 5th, finishing in a group with Alberto Contador, Trent Lowe, other pure climbers. How happy are you with the way you are climbing?
RH: Yeah, that’s definitely getting rolling in a real race and that’s a pretty encouraging indicator of my condition at this time of the year. Even the first day was super, super selective. I made it over (the climbs,) the first day and that stage was probably even less suited to me. There were some shorter and steeper grades and I was able to stay in contact with all the guys and come into the finish. I was a little conservative in the sprint, but still ran a top 10 (9th on the stage) and that kind of set the stage for me. The Queen day was a big hard day after a few days of racing but I was able to stay with the best and even have a go again at the end. I finished the race feeling good, not like I had really pushed the limits or anything. I felt stronger as each day went on, which is the goal in early season racing. So with all of those efforts mixed together it was definitely a good experience. Now maybe I’m even a little bit more nervous about March coming (laughs”¦). You work so hard to be good and then when you perform you’re like “oh, I gotta make it good now with that!”

In addition to making you nervous it’s got to give you a lot of confidence, I’d think.
RH: Well, yeah. It’s definitely confidence and just relief in a way. Those indicators, when you’re able to ride well, that’s what it’s all about — when it’s happening that’s the best time. I had 13 race days and they were all positive so now it’s time to turn that forward into March with some better performances.

What’s your upcoming race programme?
RH: The main focus is Tirreno-Adriatico (March 12-18.) I’ve done it before with Phonak (he finished 38th overall in 2006,) we have a good mix, some guys that are definitely there for the flatter stages, and I’m sure I’ll be looking at the GC along with (Dave) Zabriskie, who’s on the roster. We have two guys for the Time Trial who can definitely place top 10 as a normal goal. But I might even go a bit more lofty and be thinking top 5 if I can improve on where I was in Valencia and if I can pick up my time trialing from where it was last year. It’ll be the first TT of the season that I’ll race, so you never know. I’ve definitely been doing everything possible to ride stronger and the equipment’s familiar and I’ve already spent lots of time on the bike at team camp – so here’s as good a situation as any for that.

Are you in the mix for Tour de France selection? At 27, are you ready now?
RH: Yeah, I’d like to think so. I think the team definitely after this month will be pleased with where I’m at. There’s a little uncertainty perhaps after not racing over here for a year (last year he road with Health Net. I’ve never been uncertain about myself but with anything you have to prove it again and again and show your abilities – I think I’ve already taken a good step in that direction. I definitely have to follow that up for a few months. We have a dynamic roster and there have to be guys going that have never done the Tour — or any Grand Tour – so I think I’m in the mix for that.

Four years ago you were preparing for the Athens Games as a mountain biker — now the Olympics are coming again this year. What’s your approach to making Canada’s Olympic team?
RH: Just doing what I’m doing right now over here. There are only so many guys racing at this level over here and that speaks for itself in a lot of ways. At the end of the day I think the selection is pretty open as mainly a committee’s choice, so that’s a pretty clear message that the strongest guys at the time will be going. But right now for me with this team where I’m at, I’m just focusing on the events that are in front of me and things will sort themselves out for Beijing. I can’t really sit here and say I’m preparing for the Olympics, it’s just not realistic, even though what I’m doing right now is for that goal – but I don’t approach it that way.

A lot of people have noticed not only Steven Cozza’s strong riding (at Kuurne-Brussels-Kuurne), but also his interesting mustache. Now Zabriskie’s followed with one of his own and Directeur Sportif Johnny Weltz said that this isn’t the Army, the riders are all adults and can make decisions like that on their own. Have you thought about jumping on the mustache bandwagon?
RH: (Big laugh.) I don’t know what the big hype is about mustaches at the moment! It’s great that there are different looks out there. Perhaps over in Belgium they haven’t seen mustaches in a while. There’s definitely some riders in the pro peloton these days with facial hair. I think maybe in the past it wasn’t as accepted but now there are a lot of long-haired Dutch riders. So the peloton’s evolving, I guess. I’ve played at the facial hair a little bit, not an “extreme mustache-type style,” though. I let the beard grow in a bit in Missouri (last year.)

That was more like a “playoff beard” in hockey.
RH: Yeah”¦ I haven’t focused in exclusively on the big mustache. I don’t even know if I can grow a big mustache as I’ve never tried.

RH: (Laughs) It seems like it’s pretty covered now, it’d be almost foolish to try. Cozza, especially, and I think Dave’s always up in the air doing different things.

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Ryder Hesjedal Interview

April 22, 2007 – The Health Net p/b Maxxis team found the best pre-race spot on the final day of the 2007 Tour de Georgia. Most of the squads were set up in exposed areas of a parking lot in downtown Atlanta while awaiting the final afternoon circuit race that would see the end of the fifth-annual race.

But the Health Net p/b Maxxis squad riders, including Ryder Hesjedal, were all relaxing in their lawn chairs under a shade tree. Hesjedal, 26, of Victoria, B.C. joined the squad this season after his former squad, Phonak, disbanded following the 2006 season. About an hour before today’s final stage, Hesjedal, the race’s best climber category winner, left the comfort of his lounge chair to speak with Pedal correspondent James Raia.

You’ve now done the both the Tour of California and Tour de Georgia. What do you think of them as one-week U.S. stage races?

Ryder Hesjedal: For me, they were just normal races in sense that they were, hard, proper and full-field races, more of what I’ve been used to the past couple of years. I haven’t noticed much difference (from Europe) in the sense that the racing was hard, done properly, and it’s major league racing.

Are these two races now comparable to races like the Tour de Suisse or the Tour of Germany?

RH: I think so. It’s also relative to the level of competition. And these races are contested by some of the strongest, if not the strongest guys, in the world. That gives it the validation. As a result, whatever you throw at the top riders, they’re going to make it hard.

In the last few years, you’ve lost a a kilo or two per year. Have you done that on purpose?

RH: I think it’s just an evolution of what I’ve been doing the past couple of years – just racing on the road and maturing a little bit more. I’m still only 26. The body changes and I’ve seen those changes over the past few years. My goal from the beginning has always been to keep improving. But it’s not necessarily that one thing (weight) all the time. There are so many different components to being a cyclist. Sometimes, it’s one thing more than the other. As long as you’re always improving something, that’s the goal.

Do you know what your current weight is?

Hesjedal: Actually, I haven’t seen a scale for over two weeks. Once you’re completely in the racing schedule, weighing yourself takes a backseat. You’ve done what you can do, leading into a race. You’ve just got to stay healthy through the job. But I would suspect, probably (hopefully) around 71 (156 pounds) or 72 kilos (158 pounds).

Have you made the definitive jump to this side of the world (road cycling) or would you consider going back to mountain biking?

RH: It’s hard to say right now. Things are going well and I’ve been putting in quite a bit of effort on the road these past few years. But if the opportunity arises, it’s something to look at. But right now I’m pretty busy, so I don’t have the time to think about things that aren’t really relative.

You’ve made the transition from the European circuit to riding for a U.S.-based team. Although it does involve racing in other countries, was it a conscious decision to make the move or something else?

RH: It was a combination of quite a few things. Obviously, the situation at the time with Phonak dissolving . . . it wasn’t like I was looking for a team because things hadn’t gone well. It was just the unfortunate displacement of a lot of riders. Not just the team I was on, but a lot of teams. It could really be felt over there (Europe). I was watching the racing scene over here going the other way”¦ it was healthy and maturing, and knew that I could be racing here against many of the same guys that I was racing against over there. I looked at the teams that would maybe appreciate a rider like myself, and I looked at teams overseas. This just seemed like a more healthy choice to continue what I had earned. With Phonak, I was a rider who was looked at to get results and I just knew I would have that continue here, and that was a big part of why I decided on Health Net. At the end of the day, you see a lot of guys went where they were most valued, which was closest to home. They didn’t want to force themselves into a foreign program that might have been a tier down.

What does the rest of the season hold for you?

RH: We’re going to look at it more closely once this race is finished. For sure, I’m racing Tour of the Gila (New Mexico) and normally I would do Mt. Hood and some more stage racing and then we’ll take a look at what’s shaping up for the Philly week and we’ll look more toward the summer at what makes sense.

Medalist Sports put on the Tour of California, this race (Tour de Georgia) and there’s a new race in September, the Tour of Missouri. It’s later in the season, but what about that event?

RH: I’m a stage race rider for this team so, yes, it’s definitely on the calendar.

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Ryder Hesjedal Interview

March 5, 2007 — During the 2007 Amgen Tour of California we interviewed top Canadian roadie, Ryder Hesjedal, but the file was somehow lost in cyberspace and just showed up this weekend. We thought fans would like to read it anyway”¦

Ryder Hesjedal, and Michael Rogers at T-Mobile, both 27 years old and world class riders, are young on paper to be thrust into team leader positions for GC, but as circumstances dictate, they are both adjusting to their new roles.

We finally caught up with Hesjedal in Solvang after the TT, and a few days after he was bruised up in the ATOC stage 1 mosh pit in Santa Rosa (understandably, he wasn’t in the mood to give interviews then so we re-scheduled). A bit groggy from today’s massage, he smiled while on the table as I put my camera away “” no Ryder headshots today.

You’re in the top ten, maybe not as high as you want to place, but it’s a solid showing after the time trials. Did you expect to gain time on the field today?

Ryder Hesjedal: It was pretty good”¦no major mistakes, and my first time trial of the year, so I’m pleased.

Were you surprised by any of the stages? You are one of the most aggressive riders out there, was it a world of pain as Dave Towles, the MC, likes to say?

RH: No, I wasn’t surprised; my performance is a bit low due to allergies”¦that shows up in the TT as a half percent to a percent which is a lot of time. But I’m still pretty happy with everything. This is the first time I’ve tried to be in such good shape this time of the year”¦in stage GC shape.

I talked with a few former teammates of Levi Leipheimer on the Gerolsteiner team who told me that the Californians are taking this Tour too seriously, and that the Europeans aren’t. Has it changed the dynamics of the season and between riders who are taking it more seriously by getting in better shape earlier in the season?

RH: It depends on the objectives and circumstances of the team and the riders. I’m taking it easy and seeing what happens, not putting too much pressure on myself. With this program (Health Net) and with abilities, I think it’s going to go very well, and is going well right now.

Any qualitative differences between Health Net and Phonak?

RH: There always are the small things that matter”¦and here there are a quite a few things for the better. The team and organization is very professional””and nice.

And your teammates? Are you gelling along well with them?

RH: Yea! It’s quite a Commonwealth crew with riders form the UK, Australia, Canada, and Americans – definitely a lot less stressful than with Phonak – this team operates more comfortably.

With the high stress levels last year surrounding Floyd and Phonak you must feel like you can now deal with virtually any worst case scenarios on and off the bike. How do stress and your personal goals differ with Health Net?

RH: I’m not adding pressure”¦and it’s good to see Rory doing well here – and if Nathan was here as well we’d have three in the GC, so I’m pretty happy with how it’s going.

Last year you trained in Mallorca before the Classics began; is this year somewhat or radically different than racing in Europe?

RH: It’s hard to say since it’s early in the season, and even though we will be racing domestic teams later in the spring, I don’t think the quality of racing will be so different. The talent pool has shifted. Look at what has happened in Europe with the Italian and Spanish teams. There are at least 40-50 Spanish ProTour riders out of a job and there aren’t enough pro teams to absorb them as they dissolve; so to be incorporated into this program was the best use of my value as a rider. I feel fortunate to be involved here”¦

To the public it’s a horrible irony that Phonak, a Swiss team, went thru so many doping scandals in such a short period of time, merited or not: Did you want to leave European cycling in the aftermath of Floyd?

RH: I don’t know if it boils down to one thing, but I didn’t want to go thru that in Europe.

When Phonak dissolved and you were looking for a new team, did you want to bring anyone from the team with you?

RH: It’s always a scramble at the end of the year, but there is only so much available space for 27 extra riders. A lot of them had to take spots on continental pro teams, the next best team level; same with the French pro teams: It’s more comfortable to actually sign with a continental pro team in your own country than with a different system like the Belgium or Italian ProTour teams “” and there are only so many openings for those positions.

Silly question here: Your favorite junk food?

RH: Five-cent candies: gummies and berries. But trying to be a GC leader, I’m not much into junk food now, I’m much bigger into nutrition.

Has your body changed due to nutritional program?

RH: With Discovery I weighed 76 kilos, then with Phonak 73 kilos, and I’m now about 70.

Are you working with nutritionists?

RH: No I have a lot of help with that from others.

Are you expecting to be with Health Net for a few years?

RH: I take it all one year at a time”¦focusing on this year to pick up and continue from last year. I made it a lot further last year with opportunities and results — I thought it would take a few more years to achieve them. The trick is to be more strategic now and help ensure these results keep happening so that I don’t slip back into having to start all over. I like it here, and we’ll make a team decision later.

Any hobbies or projects during or after cycling?

RH: No”¦well, ok, I do enjoy real estate investing, I put time into it when I can.

You are going to buy here in California? (Both laugh)

RH: No! I live in Victoria, BC, and it’s an interesting and diverse area. I have to stay on top of the market there as it changes.

You are a top Canadian hopeful for domestic road dominance this year – and at the Olympics – good luck in 2007 and beyond.

RH: Thanks, man!

Hesjedal rounded out the final top ten GC standings at the Amgen Tour of California, ahead of many European stars. Despite his humility we won’t be surprised to see him among the top ranks all year, this time much closer to home.

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Ryder Hesjedal Interview

October 15, 2005 – Since Ryder Hesjedal first strapped a number plate to the front of his mountain bike in the mid 90’s he has been a champion. He has accumulated an impressive resume since those early days with highlights that include provincial and national titles, a World Cup win, podium finishes at several world championships, NORBA wins out the ying yang, and he has proudly represented Canada as an Olympian. This list of incredible accomplishments could easily be called a career by most but to Hesjedal it’s an apprenticeship and his resume has lots of room for exciting additions. We caught up with him at the Ryders Eyewear booth at Interbike 2005, and chatted about his latest career move to the Swiss UCI ProTour team, Phonak.

Since this interview we have heard that Hesjedal and fellow Canadian racer Seamus McGrath were recently involved in a car accident but we have no details as of yet.

Congratulations on the move to Phanak. You must be excited.

Hesjedal: It’s exciting. This is a Team with lots of possibilities
for me and one that is set on bringing in younger guys to build for
the future.

Were you ready for a move?

Hesjedal: It was natural timing for me after two years with US Postal
and this year with Discovery. New contracts were coming up with
Discovery and their lines (ranks) are clearly established. Pro Tour
teams are serious business and Discovery does not have much room for
younger riders, so the timing was natural.

Looking back on those two years with U.S. Postal what are your thoughts?

Hesjedal: It was the perfect situation for me so early with the
switch (from mountain bike to road). I got a lot of racing in that
normally you wouldn’t get as other riders were dealing with health
issues. I got much stronger and saw what you needed to do through
George (Hincapie).

So how did you find the switch?

Hesjedal: It was a natural progression with all the training I was
already doing on the road. I always wanted to race with the big guys
and the training and racing became more progressive. I kept getting
more opportunities. I did a few races for training and seemed to
progress fast.

That’s an understatement!

Hesjedal: (smiles) Well, I’m still learning and I can’t force things.
I know now that I seem to be able to survive the big races. I felt I
could have done better in Madrid at the 2005 Road Worlds. It had been
over a month since I was on the bike and I hadn’t raced a time trial
since Germany.

So, what are your expectations on the road?

Hesjedal: I’m really excited to be on a new team with new faces. It’s
all still so new and I want to get as much experience as possible. I
still need to finish a grand tour and can’t force things. I expect to
be ready for the classics next year.

There have been a few others who have made the switch, Cadel Evans,
Michael Rasmussen. Have they been an inspiration?

Hesjedal: Cadel and Michael have been great motivation and I have
raced with both of them. They have also given me a lot of support.

Do you think your mountain biking skills will give you an advantage
on the road?

Hesjedal: My mountain biking background may be a disadvantage. The
guys I race against have spent so much longer on the road, which
gives you the skill you need for road racing. But the Classics
require more handling so mountain biking skills may come in to play

Any regrets about leaving the fat tire scene?

Hesjedal: At the end of the day I did what I wanted to do and I don’t
know if I will look back on it as wrong, but right now I can’t
imagine going back to mountain biking. I want to be a guy who looks
back in 10 years on six years of mountain biking and 10 years of
road. There are 500 guys in the pro tour and 100 trying to get there.
That’s a lot different from mountain biking where the level is just
not that great. I like being around 24 guys all with the same goals.

You’re the one Canadian in that group of 24 guys. How do you feel
about being one of the few Canadians at this level on the road?

Hesjedal: I am proud to be Canadian and race for Canada. I was glad
to represent Canada at the 2005 Road Worlds and in Athens at the 2004
Olympics. I do put more pressure on myself than others being one of
the few Canadians but I want to break new barriers that others
(Canadians) may not have done.

Is B.C still your favorite place to ride?

Hesjedal: Yep. Girona is another favorite place to ride but I love it
in B.C. cuz it’s home.

Ok Ryder, a few quickies. Whats your favorite downtime activity?

Hesjedal: Rest.

What’s your favorite post race/train junk food?

Hesjedal: Leffe beer. It’s like a meal.

Favorite music to train to?

Hesjedal: Music is like cheating. You need to be self-motivated.
Music can be used as a secret weapon though.

What’s up next?

Hesjedal: Well, October 17th I’m off to Spain for team orientation
then I’m back home until January. It will be good to be home.

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