With eye on Tour, Hesjedal returns to action in Dauphine

Ryder Hesjedal could be headed to the Tour de France

Photo: TDW

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Ryder Hesjedal (Trek – Segafredo) insists he’s not looking too far into the crystal ball, but he could be headed to the Tour de France following a Giro d’Italia that didn’t end according to script.

With his professional future still undecided, a strong performance in the Critérium du Dauphiné could secure Hesjedal a ticket to the Tour in July. Ever the pragmatist, a healthy and motivated Hesjedal is lining up Sunday for the weeklong race across the French Alps.

“Riding the Tour was always a possibility,” Hesjedal said during a phone interview Saturday. “The Tour was always there, but the first goal was the Giro. When you leave the Giro like that, when you didn’t get the chance to push yourself and perform, you’re hungrier for the next opportunity. And the Tour is the Tour.”

The Giro d’Italia didn’t end the way the 2012 winner wanted. One of the main reasons he signed a one-year deal with Trek – Segafredo was to ride for GC in the Italian grand tour, but illness forced him to abandon during stage 14 through the Dolomites in what he described as a “nightmare.”

The 35-year-Canadian remains coy about his racing future, insisting he hasn’t made up his mind if he will race next season.

“I’m living in the here and now, and what I need to do each day. Right now, that means starting the Dauphiné,” he said. “I am not making a decision about November or January right now. I am focused right now on being a bike racer.”

And he didn’t want to elaborate about his decision to take himself out of running for a spot for the Rio de Janeiro Olympic Games. On Friday, he posted a message on Twitter saying he would take a pass on Canada’s Olympic team, just a day after Tejay van Garderen (BMC Racing) cited fears of Zika for his decision not to go to Rio.

[twitter url=”https://twitter.com/ryder_hesjedal/status/738778063148847104″]

“There were several factors, and it felt like the right choice,” he said. “I just want to focus on what’s in front of me right now, and go through the season like that. It’s as simple as that.”

Hesjedal said he’s feeling healthy again following a round of antibiotics in the wake of his Giro exit, and doesn’t want to let his good form sit on the shelf. Racing through cold and wet weather all spring finally caught up with him at the Giro, but he added, “I am not just going to sit around.”

“The build-up to the Giro wasn’t ideal, and the bad weather was an added toll on the body,” he said. “You know you’re not going to get any better, and it could make things worse … but the work you did for five or six months doesn’t go away overnight. There’s a lot of season left. I felt good on the bike over the past week, so it’s better to refocus. You cannot look back.”

After watching the final week of the Giro, he doesn’t think Vincenzo Nibali (Astana) would have won if Steven Kruijswijk (LottoNL – Jumbo) hadn’t crashed into a snow bank in stage 19.

“Kruijswijk lost the Giro,” he said. “Any one of those little things can end everything, a crash, a puncture at the wrong time. That was my biggest fear through the latter part of the race [in 2012], and I am still thankful every day that didn’t happen. Without that crash, he would have won. As good as Nibali was going, I doubt he could put in what he needed to win.”

If Hesjedal does line up for the Tour, he will be slotting into a helper’s role behind Trek’s GC captain Bauke Mollema, who starts the Dauphiné as a podium threat. The race kicks off with a four-kilometer climbing time trial in Les Gets straight up the side of a mountain.

“We have Bauke for the GC, and for me, it’s about doing what I need to do for the team,” he said. “Tomorrow is going to burn in the legs, that’s for sure.”

An American in France

What’s it like to be an American cyclist living in France? Watch to get professional road cyclist Joe Dombrowski’s view.