Hesjedal one stage away from the Champs-Élysées

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UPDATE: Hesjedal was 35th on the Mont Ventoux stage today, finishing in 4’45″06. That was 5:45 seconds behind stage winner Juan Manuel Garate of Spain. He’s currently in 49th overall at 82:59:58, which is 1:13:41 behind Contador (81:46:17). By the end of tomorrow’s stage on the Champs-Élysées he will have covered a total distance of 3435 km.

Photo courtesy of Garmin Slipstream.

Victoria’s Hesjedal gearing up for Tour’s end
Cleve Dheensaw, Canwest News Service
Published: Saturday, July 25, 2009

VICTORIA — After nearly 88 hours of pedalling, 3,500 hard kilometres under a relentless sun and three crashes, Ryder Hesjedal of Victoria will ride down Paris’s famed Champs-Elysees on Sunday to end his second Tour de France.

“It’s hard to put into words, but coming down the Champs is the magic moment every cyclist dreams of,” Hesjedal said Saturday from France.

“The Champs will be crazy with all the people and atmosphere. It’s a truly significant moment in the career of any cyclist and I’m looking forward to it.”

Until last year’s race, no Canadian cyclist had experienced that rush for more than a decade.

“It will be hard to beat the memory of the first time I did it (2008),” said two-time Olympian, only the fourth Canadian ever to ride in the Tour.

“Nothing compares with the first time. But returning to do it again for the second time is hugely satisfying on a whole different level. I’ve shown I belong in this race at this level.”

Sunday’s 21st and final stage will take the riders 164 kilometres from Montereau into Paris and down the Champs-Elysees.

The penultimate 20th stage on Saturday will remain vividly etched in the mind for Hesjedal and all the competitors. More than one million people lined the tight 167-kilometre route for the Tour’s steepest climb, up Mount Baldy in Provence, from Montelimar to Mont Ventoux.

“The crowd . . . the climb . . . it was unforgettable,” said Hesjedal.

Hesjedal was 35th in Saturday’s stage in four hours 45 minutes 6 seconds. That was 5:45 seconds behind stage winner Juan Manuel Garate of Spain.

Hesjedal sits 49th overall at 82:59:58, which is 1:13:41 behind leader and probable champion Alberto Contador of Spain (81:46:17).

Hesjedal, one of seven support riders who did the heavy pedalling for the two Garmin Slipstream star riders, expressed satisfaction at a job well done.

Garmin rider Bradley Wiggins of Britain is fourth overall, 6:01 behind Contador, and Hesjedal helped get him there.

“I definitely feel like a key member of this squad,” said Hesjedal, whose efforts helped Garmin finish second in the team standings behind the powerhouse Astanta side – led by Contador and third-place Lance Armstrong.

Hesjedal has been rewarded with a two-year contract extension that will keep him with Garmin Slipstream through 2011.

Victoria Times Colonist

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