Mon, November 18, 2013

Ryder Hesjedal hits rough road, places 63rd

By STEVE SIMMONS, QMI Agency



Road race a wild affair
 

LONDON - Ryder Hesjedal waited. And waited. And for almost six hours he kept on waiting.

He really had no other choice.

He was looking for a chance, an opportunity to break, searching to find that next to impossible which sometimes happens at the Olympic Games.

This is Olympic road racing in cycling when youíre out there on your own, when youíre a one-man team, when the only support you have comes from a coach in a car on a crowded course, well, you know itís not going to be your Olympic dream.

Hesjedal, for the record, finished 63rd Saturday. His coach, Gord Fraser, thought he was 28th. But with 55 riders ending up with the same official team, both are probably accurate.

Riding alone in the near-six hours of cycling is like trying to play goal without a defence - not with a bad defence, without one entirely - -or trying to run the football without an offensive line. You can be great as Hesjedal has proven. You can be strong. You can be fast. You can be athletic. But you canít win the Olympics by yourself in this team event that awards singular medals. You just become another name, another statistic, another forgotten Olympian. He got boxed in: And he never got out the box.

And thatís not what Hesjedal wanted here, not after winning the Giro d'Italia. Not after doing what no Canadian has done before. Not after falling at the Tour de France. Not after just becoming a name people know. He was some peopleís pick as a medal hopeful here: The people who made the pick donít understand the sport.

And now he has this 63rd or this 28th or whatever number it was to carry around. There were so many mess-ups yesterday at cycling - on the course, off the course, the poor British announcers in the stadium had trouble identifying who was who and it wasnít their fault - that Hesjedalís day of disappointment pales by what the Brits are feeling having set up the entire race as a coronation of legendary Mark Cavendish. Only one problem. He finished 29th.

And he had an offensive line blocking for him and an entire country behind him.

ďIt was fun to be out there,Ē said Hesjedal, who didnít make it sound like it was fun to be out there. ďItís not like a video game. You donít just press a button and say I want to go to the front row. Youíre out there pedalling for almost six hours. You have to have a plan and an idea and stick to it...I decided to ride as conservatively as possible. I donít know where the moment was I could make a break.Ē

He said all of that with next to no emotion. Stonefaced may be his expression of choice. But perhaps he was exhausted after the race. Or perhaps he was just whipped by sport and circumstance.

ďI kept listening for Ryderís number,Ē said Fraser, the coach and former Olympian. ďWhen I didnít hear it, I knew that wasnít good.

ďMaybe the legs werenít there. I donít know. These one-day races that arenít that hard, thereís a lot of tactics involved. A lot of guys were caught up. Weíre disappointed obviously...He has pretty lofty standards. So coming in the line for 28th place or whatever it was is a little anti-climactic.Ē

There is another race left for Hesjedal in the cycling time trials here and he has a small stake in Sundayís womenís road race. After winning in Italy, he put his pink jersey up for sale on eBay, in order to raise money for charity. The jersey was sold for $10,300. He took $1000 of that money and donated it to the Canadian Athletes Now Fund. That money ended up being given to Clara Hughesí teammate, Denise Ramsden, who rides for Canada Sunday.

Thatís giving back. Unfortunately, no one could provide much for Hesjedal in the race he wanted most. He didnít need money at the place they call The Mall on Saturday. He needed a team.

steve.simmons@sunmedia.ca

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