Monday, 28 May 2012
Ryder Hesjedal has created cycling history by becoming the first Canadian to win the Tour of Italy.
The 31-year-old landed the first of the season's big three tours after prising the leader's pink jersey from Spain's Joaquim Rodriguez at the end of his 28.2 kilometre time trial.
Hesjedal, bagging a first major Tour for his country, had set out on the race against the clock ready to pounce at 31sec behind Rodriguez after two stamina-sapping days riding in the Alps.
Favoured by the final day format, he crossed the line after three weeks of gruelling racing 16s clear of Rodriguez, with Belgium Thomas De Gendt, who put up a superb solo effort to claim Saturday's penultimate stage, in third at 1min39s.
Hesjedal, shedding a few tears on the podium, said on Sunday: "For me this is an incredible experience, the joy is overpowering.
"I began to believe I could do it as the days went by when I saw that my legs were holding up well in the mountains.
"Even in my head I was calm and I remained serene.
"I saw that my rivals were beginning to respect me more and more - and in the end, I did it."
He added: "This is the reward of a life of working, over the years, to achieve such a lofty objective.
"And it's for that reason that I am so deeply happy."
Asked what ambitions he now entertained for the Tour de France he said: "I'll think about that in a few days' time; for now I want to savour this amazing moment."
For the first time since 1995 no Italian made the podium, with the highest placed local rider being last year's winner, Michele Scarponi, in fourth at 2:05.
Ivan Basso came in fifth at 3:44.
The closing 21st stage in Milan was won by Italian Marco Pinotti ahead of Geraint Thomas and Jesse Sergent, with Hesjedal assuring ultimate victory in sixth.
Rodriguez, who had said he was going to need a miracle to deny Hesjedal in the time trial, came in 1:56 down on Pinotti.
Rodriguez, 33 and who came the closest he has ever done to winning one of the three major Tours, said he had done "everything possible" to try and hold on to his lead till the end over the time trial finale.
"Up to the last bend I told myself anything could happen. I took every risk possible. I gave it my all. It was only at the finish that I knew I'd lost the Giro, and that makes it even harder."