Team Garmin-Transitions’s Ryder Hesjedal rode to a second-place finish at the Amstel Gold race. And with a result like that comes a lot of media attention. Here is an in-depth interview with the Canadian by the Canadian cycling magazine, Pedal.
Pedal: So Garmin-Transitions makes you team leader for the spring classics and you pay it off with second place in Amstel Gold – that has to be a great feeling for both you and the team.
Ryder Hesjedal: Yeah, that was definitely always something that was in the back of my mind, even since last year, I was the top guy here for the team and it was nice to be able to keep that focus and take another chance at it this year. Obviously it’s a huge compliment (to be team leader) and it’s definitely where I want to be right now and I think I demonstrated this well yesterday.
Pedal:Talk about how tough a course it is and your plan going in.
RH: (Laughs) I don’t know if many readers are that familiar with the Ardennes but these races are about as hard as it gets, if not the hardest. I’ve actually had the least good feelings here (at Amstel Gold) for whatever reason, being the first race of the three (Ardennes Classics). But I haven’t executed the same approach yet and this is my fifth try. It’s always been a little bit different leading in, so I think my approach was obviously the best this year. I was able to lead into the race with three solid stage races in the span of five weeks so obviously it’s been the right call for gaining good condition – and I’ve had enough experience here to be able to put that all together yesterday.
That was simply it – it’s a race that’s really very decisive in the late moments. Once the distance goes over 200k it’s a different type of bike race, and it’s clear who the strong guys are and the selections come rapidly. You know, the selections are very hard, I mean there’s no rest during the last four climbs. You have to be there every time and everyone has a game plan and tries to stick to it. Mine was to just conserve and keep myself in the race and to try and arrive at the bottom of the Cauberg (the final climb of the race) with a chance. Obviously there were a few riders with that same interest and it worked out.
Pedal:What happened when Philippe Gilbert (the race winner) attacked on the final ascent of the Cauberg?
RH: Well, it was more just powering away – I mean it’s short, but it’s also long after that much racing. It’s really just who’s got the legs and who can hold it to the line when it plateaus. He clearly could have probably held it for quite a while longer if he’d had to. It was obviously an acceleration to seal his performance, but it was more just everybody giving all they had to the line. There’s not a whole lot of tactic at that point (laughs.)
Pedal:You couldn’t follow Gilbert – no one could – but you kept your head, you had the legs and you had a great sprint to beat Enrico Gasparotto to the line for 2nd. That was pretty impressive.
RH: Yeah! That’s the thing, maybe if I was on Gilbert’s wheel and had followed his acceleration it would have been too much and I would have been overtaken by three guys. You just never know. All I know is what I did and I gauged my effort enough and was able to take a strong second place. So based on how he rode I don’t think I could have gone any better.
Pedal:You finished ahead of world champion Cadel Evans, both Schlecks, Robert Gesink, Oscar Freire and Damiano Cunego in a one-day race as important as Amstel Gold. Every team wants its leader to win or finish on the podium – considering the status of this race, how does it feel to have finished 2nd?
RH: Oh, it’s huge, it’s really rewarding. Yeah, I was just thinking about that. I was able to glance at the results last night and a few times today and it’s pretty solid so it gives you a lot of motivation and satisfaction! I’ve been working pretty hard for many years and these are the kind of results that give you that recognition and you can say you beat the best on a top day, one short of the victory. We always get the race manuals and it shows all the previous podiums. I guess I bettered (Steve) Bauer, he was 3rd in 1989 I believe, and the best other North American is Lance (Armstrong) who was second twice – so to match something like that is pretty awesome!
More photos of Ryder Hesjedal: