On Sunday, Ryder Hesjedal won the Giro d’Italia to become the first Canadian in history to stand atop a Grand Tour podium. The three-week race turned into a tense, tactical battle between Hesjedal and Spaniard Joaquim Rodríguez, with the two flip-flopping in and out of the race lead after Hesjedal first assumed control on the Stage 7 mountaintop finish at Rocca del Cambio.
The drama persisted all the way to the final day’s 28.2-kilometer individual time trial in Milan. Rodriguez started with a 31-second lead over the Canadian, but Hesjedal rode the course 47 seconds faster than the Spanish climber to take the overall title by a slim 16 seconds. It was the fourth smallest margin of victory in a Grand Tour in history. At one minute and 39 seconds back, Belgian Thomas de Gendt rounded out the podium.
It was the first Grand Tour victory for Hesjedal, as well as for his team, Garmin-Barracuda. Founded on a strong, anti-doping platform in 2007 by retired U.S. racer Jonathan Vaughters, Garmin has long been considered a model for clean racing. Overall victory at one the world’s biggest bike races is sure to be seen as a continuing sign that the sport is moving forward from its scandalous past. “We don’t think of ourselves in those terms,” Hesjedal said of his team. “Doing things right is just what we do.”
We spoke with the Canadian this morning after he’d just traveled from Milan to the Garmin training complex in Calpe, Spain.
So you won the Giro. Congrats! Has it sunk in yet?
Yeah, I mean it pretty much sank in when I was standing up there on the podium on Sunday. I’m the 2012 Giro d’Italia winner, and that’s just the way it is. I’m happy, for sure, but it’s hard to describe exactly how it feels. Achievements like this don’t come easy or often. I’ve been working a long time to stand where I stand now. All that work is what makes it sink in.