Hesjedal second in prestigious Amstel Gold race

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Talk of Victoria’s Ryder Hesjedal being moved up from support rider to more of an attacking role because of his success this past season.

BY CLEVE DHEENSAW, VICTORIA TIMES COLONIST APRIL 19, 2010 COMMENTS (2)

VICTORIA — Victoria cyclist Ryder Hesjedal wasn’t expecting to take such a long route to the podium Sunday in the prestigious Amstel Gold race at Valkenburg, Netherlands.

With the Icelandic volcano curtailing flights over northern Europe, he was forced to drive 1,300 kilometres from his Garmin-Transitions team’s base in Girona, Spain, to Valkenburg, located near the Dutch border with Germany.

So a scuttled one-and-a-half-hour hop by plane became a 13-hour car ride.

But it was worth it as Hesjedal placed second in the 257-kilometre race in six hours 22 minutes 56 seconds. He was just two seconds behind winner Philippe Gilbert of Belgium with Enrico Gasparotto of Italy third.

“It’s unbelievable to be second in one of the top races on the calendar,” said Hesjedal, by phone Monday from the Netherlands.

“This is among the top of the classic one-day races and it’s like a dream to be on the podium.”

The silver medal may have been tempered by the fact 13 of the 192 scheduled racers couldn’t make it to the race because of the European no-fly situation — including Lance Armstrong, Fabian Cancellara, Bradley Wiggins, Carlos Sastre and Alejandro Valverde — but you can only race against who is there and there is no diminishing what Hesjedal achieved.

Photograph by: Jerry Lampen, Reuters
The result continued Hesjedal’s steely climb up the pro racing ladder.

In 2008 and 2009 he became only the fourth Canadian to ride in the Tour de France and the first in over a decade. He capped last summer by becoming the first Canadian to win a stage in the Tour of Spain, which with the Tour de France and Giro d’Italia comprise the Grand Tour of pro cycling. It was the first Grand Tour stage victory by a Canadian since Steve Bauer of Fenwick, Ont., in the 1988 Tour de France and followed up a second-place Tour of Spain stage finish by Hesjedal the week before.

Several cycling commentators are predicting Hesjedal to be elevated from support rider to more of an attacking role with the Garmin-Transitions team.

“It takes time to make an impact in pro cycling and things are going well in that regard,” said the 29-year-old Hesjedal.

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