Hesjedal to start June Tour tune-up in return to racing

Garmin-Sharp rider pulled out of the Giro d'Italia last week after falling ill

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CARAVAGGIO, Italy (VN) — Ryder Hesjedal (Garmin-Sharp) will race again before the start of next month’s Tour de France.

Garmin sport director Charly Wegelius told VeloNews that the 2012 Giro d’Italia champ will likely race either the Critérium du Dauphiné or Tour de Suisse before starting the Tour on June 29 on the island of Corsica.

“He’s had some tests done, and we are going to see how he comes around. We are hopeful that he will be improving soon,” Wegelius said ahead of Wednesday’s start in Caravaggio. “He will race soon. We don’t have any definitive plan yet. From Monday, we will have time to move on to other things.”

Hesjedal, 32, pulled out of the Giro after falling ill in the opening week of the Italian tour. Despite coming into his Giro defense with high hopes, the Canadian succumbed to health problems and did not start stage 13.

Before exiting the race, Hesjedal told VeloNews, “something’s not right” when he could go not go deep to follow the accelerations of his rivals.

Wegelius said team doctors are still trying to determine what Hesjedal came down with, but suggested it was “some sort of viral infection.”

In a statement sent to VeloNews on Wednesday, Garmin medical staff confirmed that Hesjedal suffered from an upper respiratory tract infection: “Since he came into the Giro in such good form, it left him vulnerable, hampering his body’s ability to fight infection, according to medical staff. His effort from the TT, combined with further efforts in rainy and cold conditions stressed his immune system and made him susceptible to contracting the infection. Once the infection was contracted, competiting at the level necessary in a grand tour like the Giro became virtually impossible, leaving no chance for recovery and only the worsening of the condition.”

Garmin physicial Phil Stawski said Hesjedal likely contracted the virus early in the race.

“It appears that Ryder had been exposed to the virus affecting many in the peloton during the first week of racing,” said Stawski. “Secondary to his outstanding form and conditioning, the more typical symptoms did not manifest until later, however the effect on his body and performance was already occurring. His effort during the TT and in the cold and wet conditions continued to impact his body’s ability to fight the infection and he ultimately succumbed. The only option to prevent the worsening of his condition was to stop racing and allow him to recover.”

Hesjedal is expected to start the Tour, but his health issues have thrown a wrench into the team’s plans for the race.

First, Wegelius said Hesjedal needs to regain full health before they can make firm plans on how to approach the Tour.

The Canadian was going to be the team’s GC captain, with proven riders such as Christian Vande Velde and Tom Danielson, both former top-10 Tour finishers, also lining up. Andrew Talansky, second overall at Paris-Nice, is also expected to make his Tour debut this year.

Illnesses and crashes have wreaked havoc across the team’s roster, so management wants to wait to see how riders recover and perform over the coming weeks before deciding on who is heading to the Tour.

“Nothing’s fixed in stone yet for the Tour,” Wegelius said. “That’s still an open book. We’ll see how things shake out in a few weeks.”

Despite falling ill, Danielson said he expects Garmin to bring a strong squad to the French tour.

“I think we’ll have a good GC program for the Tour. We’ll show up in shape, with clear objectives, and hopefully we’ll accomplish them,” Danielson told VeloNews. “The Giro puts you in good position for July. You cannot do this in training. Yesterday, we did 10,000 vertical, 240km, and six hours on the bike. Today, it’s 214km, it’s like a rest day in this Giro.”

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