Former mountain bike champion Ryder Hesjedal makes some Canadian history in pink.
Today in the 2012 Giro d'Italia's first mountaintop finish atop Rocca di Cambio, Garmin-Barracuda's Ryder Hesjedal became the first Canadian since Steve Bauer led the Tour de France 22 years ago to lead a Grand Tour. The 31 year old from Victoria, British Columbia took the Maglia Rosa for Garmin-Barracuda, the first Canadian to ever don the pink jersey and lead the Italian Tour.
New Maglia Rosa Hesjedal said post-stage "I was kind of disappointed when I didn't get the (Maglia Rosa) yesterday, but my team rode really well today to support me and I had great legs. Christian (Vandevelde) put me in perfect position in the finale' and I had a great result. My form is good; now I'll take it step by step and see what happens", explained Hesjedal after Stage 7.
The former mountain biker, a two-time World champion in the mountain bike team relay turned pro on the road in 2005 for the Discovery Channel and in 2006 joined Floyd Landis on the ill-fated Phonak outfit. Hesjedal headed back to North America and rode for Health Net in 2007. In 2008, Hesjedal signed with Garmin-Slipstream and had his big breakthrough result the next year with a stage win at the Vuelta a Espana.
In 2010, Hesjedal had a brilliant ride at the Tour de France with a 6th place finish. He was part of Garmin's Stage 2 TTT win but finished a disappointing 18th in Paris. This season, Hesjedal has started slowly and focused 100% on the Giro d'Italia, a strategy that seems to be paying off for the lanky Canadian who makes his off-season home in Maui. With some luck, Hesjedal looks like he is on his way to an excellent result at this years Giro. Meanwhile his Garmin-Barracuda teammate Peter Stetina has taken over the Maglia Bianca as best young rider from Andrea Malori (Lampre-ISD), a jersey the young American talent may not relinquish at the 2012 Giro d'Italia.
Chris Horner Is Not California Dreaming
Podium Bubbles for Horner at 2012 Tirreno Adriatico
At the ripe, young age of 40 years old, Chris Horner is not California Dreaming when he thinks he can win his second consecutive Tour of Califiornia. Although some prognosticators have recently been underestimating Horner, that's nothing new for the freckle-faced Radio Shack rider in his 16 year pro career. In fact, Horner is the Rodney Dangerfield of American Cycling; last year he shredded three time Cali winner Levi Leipheimer on Mount Baldy to take the Cali Tour for the win.
Although Horner doesn't like the 2012 course as much as last year, he knows Mount Baldy as his date with destiny in California this year. Some pundits have picked BMC's Van Garderen as a winner, or tried to set-up a duel with Liquigas-Cannondale's Nibali like Horner had at Tirreno-Adriatico in March. But Van Garderen doesn't have the climbing horsepower Horner has, while Nibali is using California for his
Tour de France prep. Omega Pharma's Leipheimer is damaged goods as a broken fibula has slowed his race prep. Garmin-Barracuda's duo Danielson andTalansky will give it a good try, but it's unlikely anyone can withstand Horner's onslaught on the steep slopes of Mount Baldy.
Horner leads Levi Leipheimer in the 2006 Tour of California.
After his 2011 Calif win, a huge crash in the Tour de France gave the America a concussions, followed by a blood clot in his lung that need his cycling season. Horner took the setback as a challenge and trained well over the winter and so far in 2012, his great ride at Tirreno-Adriatico put him on the track to another Cali win his season. Horner explained his simple strategy at the Tour of California press conference, saying "On Mount Baldy, whatever guy is sitting second, third, fourth or fifth will have to attack first, and I'll probably be sitting fifth or sixth on GC at that time (after the time trial). Then I'm just going to have to make a selection at the finish, and I'll know then if the legs are good or not good."
Born and raised on the roads of Southern California, the always candid Horner is at his best when the going gets tough and the penultimate stage of the Cali race. If he wins his second consecutive Tour of Califiornia, perhaps his Radio Shack boss Johan Bruyneel will realize he should back Horner for team leader at the 2012 Tour de France, not the unpredictable Andy Schleck.