After 21 hard-fought stages and exemplary teamwork from his squad, Ryder Hesjedal today came from behind to win the Giro d'Italia - the first Grand Tour victory for Team Garmin and Canada's first win at the Giro. Though Ryder had previously worn the pink jersey of the overall leader on two different occasions earlier in the race, he claimed the prize for good Sunday with a daring dash through the time trial course.
When three weeks of professional cycling come down to the final day's race against the clock - and when the contenders' 90-plus hours on the bike result in a margin of victory of only 16 seconds, it's tough to do it justice in a post-race recap. For a quck glimpse of how excited fans were about this climactic finish, search for #Giro on Twitter, where Ryder was a top trending topic earlier today.
We've already given our Facebook and Twitter pages a makeover, and we'll be talking quite a bit about this huge win in the days to come - as well as Dave Zabriskie's win at the U.S. Pros that keeps him in stars and stripes for yet another year - but to best describe what's being called one of the best Grand Tours in recent memory, we'll turn to the professionals (and check out great pics from CyclingNews)....From the folks at VeloNews: Ryder Hesjedal (Garmin-Barracuda) delivered a solid final-day effort, supplanting Joaquim Rodríguez (Katusha) atop the overall standings to become the first Canadian to win the Giro d’Italia.
“It was just an unreal experience from day one, with what we’ve been able to do, with the support of the team,” said Hesjedal. “I couldn’t have done it without them. I knew I was good when I came here. I just stayed focused and took advantage of the situation. I kept feeding off that support.”
Rodríguez rolled down the start ramp in pink, but by the halfway point, the Spaniard had lost nearly all of his 31-second advantage. Up the road, Hesjedal drove across the downtown Milan roads, holding off Michele Scarponi (Lampre-ISD) and Thomas De Gendt (Vacansoleil-DCM).
By the second intermediate checkpoint, 25 minutes into the stage, Rodriguez had ceded the virtual lead by 13 seconds to Hesjedal. The Canadian took risks, riding aggressively through the corners and appearing to nearly lose his bike on a number of occasions. He would hold on, however, and deliver the Giro win he targeted late in 2011.
Here's a quick recap from CyclingNews: Ryder Hesjedal (Garmin-Barracuda) became the first Canadian rider to win a Grand Tour when he finished 47 seconds ahead of overnight leader Joaquim Rodríguez (Katusha) to claim the Giro d'Italia title by a mere 16 seconds. Hesjedal finished sixth in the 28.2km test in Milan, which was won by Marco Pinotti (BMC Racing). Hesjedal cleared all but two seconds of his 31-second deficit on Rodríguez by the first time check and continued to gain time on the Spaniard. Apart from a couple of dicey moments as his bike slipped as he went through two tight corners, Hesjedal was always on course to achieve his goal, although Rodríguez finished strongly and did not lose as much team as many had expected.