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Eric Ryder Hesjedal (/raɪdər hɛʒɑːdɑːl/) (born December 9, 1980) is a Canadian retired professional racing cyclist who last rode for UCI ProTeam Trek–Segafredo. He is a former mountain biker, and won a silver medal at the 2001 Under-23 world championship. He turned professional with Discovery Channel in 2005 after several years with the Rabobank continental team. Having previously finished in fifth place at the 2010 Tour de France, Hesjedal won his first and only Grand Tour at the 2012 Giro d'Italia, the first Grand Tour win by a Canadian. Other major wins include two stages at the Vuelta a España, the only such stage wins by a Canadian.
His career started out with him competing as a mountain bike cyclist. Hesjedal first met success as a two-time world champion in the mountain bike relay event in both 2001 and 2002. He won silver as an individual at the 2003 world mountain biking championships and competed at the 2004 Olympics for Canada in the mountain bike category. At those games, Hesjedal was on his way to an Olympic medal and likely a gold medal before a sharp rock cut and flattened his tire, ending that Olympic dream.
As a result of both the early success and disappointments in his career, this allowed him to make the full-time switch to road cycling. A climber and time trialist, he was selected by Discovery Channel for the 2005 Giro d'Italia and helped Paolo Savoldelli win, although failing to complete the course himself. After 2005 he joined the Swiss team Phonak. There he began to build some of his best results, finishing fourth in the 2006 Volta a Catalunya and second in the 2006 Canadian time trial championship. Later that season he rode the Vuelta a España, although he dropped out near the end to concentrate on the road world championships in Salzburg. He achieved only modest results. The end of the Phonak team led him to Health Net for 2007. For 2008 he joined Garmin-Slipstream and helped Christian Vande Velde to fourth in the Tour de France.
In 2009 Hesjedal competed in the Vuelta a España. He finished second of the mountainous tenth stage behind Simon Gerrans (Cervélo TestTeam), registering the same time as the victor. He did not miss his chance days later on stage 12 however, when he detached himself from the favorites' group on the ultimate climb of Alto de Velefique. He joined the lone escapee David García (Xacobeo–Galicia) and tried to shake him off, but García resisted. Hesjedal outsprinted his rival near the line to rake in the victory. With that feat, he became the first Canadian to have won a Vuelta stage and the first Canadian individual winner of a Grand Tour stage since Steve Bauer in the 1988 Tour de France. However, he abandoned later and did not take the start of the eighteenth stage. Hesjedal was the only Canadian to compete in the Tour de France for both 2008 and 2009. He was also the first Canadian to ride in the daunting race in more than 10 years.
At the end of the 2009 year Hesjedal was selected as Canadian cyclist of the decade and male Canadian cyclist of the year. The honour was given to him from Canadian Cyclist and the results came from an online poll. He was also named male international cyclist of the year of 2009 from Cycling BC.
In March, Hesjedal grabbed a good result at the Strade Bianche, an Italian race which is run in part on dirt roads. He finished fifth, 19 seconds behind the victor, Maxim Iglinskiy of Astana, and said that he was happy with his performance. In April, Hesjedal earned a place on the podium in one of the Ardennes Classics, the Amstel Gold Race, which ran through the Dutch hills for 257 kilometres (160 mi). In the final kilometer, he attempted to follow the acceleration produced by Philippe Gilbert on the steep Cauberg, but had to settle for second place, two seconds behind the Belgian.
Hesjedal rode the Tour of California and finished fifth overall, grabbing a victory on the eighth stage in the process. He out-sprinted his breakaway companions Chris Horner (Team RadioShack), George Hincapie (BMC Racing Team) and Carlos Barredo (Quick-Step). With that operation he helped secure the overall win of Michael Rogers since Hesjedal appropriated the 10 seconds bonus awarded to stage winners, making sure none of Rogers' rivals could claim it since Rogers had a very narrow lead in the general classification.
During the Tour de France, Hesjedal finished 4th in the third stage, which featured some cobbled sections, after leading by himself for much of the race until being caught in the last 6 km. He was awarded the most combative rider on the day and thus wore red numbers for the fourth stage. On July 22, 2010 Hesjedal again finished fourth, this time on stage 17 on the famed slopes of the Col du Tourmalet. Hesjedal went on to finish fifth in the overall classification of the 2010 Tour de France, the highest Canadian finish in the race in 22 years, when Bauer finished fourth in the 1988 Tour de France. Hesjedal went on to say of his result:
"I hope this result does positive things for Canadian cycling and motivates the next generation of Canadian cyclists. I hope that’s the biggest thing that comes out of this... This placing will be there [in the books] forever... If this makes more Canadians aware of cycling, and want to cycle, then it will have been worth it for that alone."
— Ryder Hesjedal, about his Tour de France 5th place
Hesjedal had a quieter 2011 year, with a few near wins. In April, he put in a spirited effort to finish in ninth position of the Tour of the Basque Country, a World Tour event. He placed in the top 7 for four of the six stages, but went from fifth Overall to ninth after the Individual Time Trial held on the last day, where he came in a minute and 52 seconds behind Tony Martin. He performed well in the 2011 Tour de France though he did not finish as well as his 6th placing of the previous year. He came 18th overall and was part of Team Garmin's team time trial victory on stage 2. On the mountainous stage 16 concluding in Gap, Hesjedal came in sight of the finish line with his teammate Thor Hushovd and another Norwegian, Edvald Boasson Hagen. He set his teammate up by taking the first position and riding hard, allowing Hushovd to launch his sprint and take the win, with Hesjedal coming in third. Other notable results from 2011 include a fourth place at the GP Miguel Indurain, a 10th Overall spot at the Tour of California, twelfth at the classic La Flèche Wallonne and eleventh on a World Tour race held on his home soil, the Grand Prix Cycliste de Montréal.
Hesjedal rode very strongly in the spring classics, including a 9th placing at Liège-Bastogne-Liège. He also rode the first 4 stages of the Tour de Romandie, but he did not complete the race since Garmin–Barracuda wanted to keep him rested in preparation for the Giro d'Italia, where he would be the team's leader for the overall classification, while his team-mate Tyler Farrar's task would be to contest the sprint finishes.
His Giro that year got off to a good start, Garmin-Barracuda won the team time trial and put Hesjedal in fourth overall and within reach of the overall lead. On May 12, he became the first Canadian in history to lead the overall classification of the Giro and wear the pink jersey as leader of the general classification. He is the first Canadian rider since Steve Bauer in the 1990 Tour de France to wear an overall classification jersey from a Grand Tour. The event unfolded on stage 7, where the last of the escapees was caught with only 700 meters to go. Hesjedal finished 5th in the uphill finish atop Rocca di Cambio, 5 seconds behind stage winner Paolo Tiralongo of Astana, securing the leader's jersey. Though he would eventually lose the jersey to Joaquim Rodríguez, he would again don the pink jersey for the overall lead on stage 14 after attacking on the Cervinia and leaving his competitors unable to respond. However, Rodriguez managed to reclaim the overall lead the following day.
During the mountain stages of the last week many expected Hesjedal to drop back in the overall standings, however, he remained in the fray hovering between 15 and 30 seconds back of the overall lead. As he was considered a strong time trialist and because of the fact that he attacked often on the final mountain stages, dropping contenders like Ivan Basso and Michele Scarponi, many were led to believe that the Canadian would win the Giro on the final day, including race leader Rodriguez who conceded he had not done enough.
When in fact the last day of the Giro was run on the streets of Milan for the time trial, Hesjedal completed the course in 34:15 which was indeed enough time to take the pink jersey for the final time. This completed his journey of becoming the first Canadian to win a Grand Tour and only the second time ever that the pink jersey changed hands on the last day of the Giro. His title was also notable in that it was done on an entirely made and manufactured Canadian bicycle by Cervelo. The victory elicited an immediate response from his home country of Canada, with the nation's Prime Minister, Stephen Harper releasing a statement saying "We thank Mr. Hesjedal for this defining moment in Canadian sport. This remarkable win in one of bicycle racing's most grueling competitions is a testimony to Mr. Hesjedal’s training, endurance, skill and competitive spirit." British Columbia premier Christy Clark added that “For a British Columbian to have done this is amazing. I know this is going to go down as one of the great Canadian accomplishments ever in sport.”
Allan Peiper, the Garmin team's sporting director compared Hesjedal's 16 second victory to that of 2011 Tour de France winner Cadel Evans' victory. He noted the similarities in the fight to stay within striking distance on the final mountain stages and then the time-trial to victory that both riders had. Of his own final ride up the Passo dello Stelvio Hesjedal said that "I was a bit concerned. As we approached the last part of the Stelvio, none of my rivals were willing to work to conserve their positions, either ... Those are all the tactics and situations. I basically had to save my own Giro in the last five [kilometres]. It was a huge effort."
With his successful Giro, questions were asked if he would still ride the 2012 Tour de France. It was announced in early June that he would be Garmin's team leader for the Tour. Hesjedal was also announced as Canada's male rider in the 2012 Summer Olympics by the Canadian Olympic Committee in June. At the 2012 Tour de France he was close to the overall lead in 8th, 18 seconds back, from the prologue through the first five stages. Hesjedal was then involved in a massive crash during the 6th stage that put him 13 minutes behind and out of contention for the general classification. The following day, Hesjedal withdrew from the event due to the injuries to his leg and hip.
The Summer Olympics went on with underwhelming results from Hesjedal where he finished 63rd in the road race and a 28th finish as Canada's lone entry in the time trial competition.
In the fall, Hesjedal had a strong showing in the Italian classic Giro di Lombardia, where he finished sixth in a race that was marked by heavy rain and low temperatures. Only 54 riders out of 197 completed the race. He then looked to end his season on a high note at the Tour of Beijing, putting it all on the line on the hilly fifth stage, where he attacked relentlessly. Only BMC Racing Team rider Steve Cummings could follow him as he tried to put as much distance as possible between himself and race leader Tony Martin. Hesjedal missed his gamble however, was out-sprinted by Cummings for the victory and had to settle for second place for the stage and 18th in the overall classification.
For his strong results over the year and particularly his Giro overall victory, Hesjedal was given the Lionel Conacher Award as Canada's male athlete of the year.
Hesjedal's first race of the season was the Volta a Catalunya, where he helped set up his teammate Dan Martin for the general classification victory, while preparing himself for his top priority of the season, the Giro d'Italia. Hesjedal rode some spring classics, including Liège-Bastogne-Liège, where he attempted a solo breakaway on the Côte de Colonster with about 15 km (9.3 mi) to cover. He was later swept by a small chasing group containing teammate Martin. Hesjedal took some pulls at the front of the group and once again played a role in Martin's victory, taking the eighth place for himself.
At the Giro d'Italia, Hesjedal was aggressive on the third stage, breaking away solo on the last climb and then imposing a hard tempo on the descent with rival Vincenzo Nibali, which caused a lot of riders to crash on the rain-soaked tarmac while trying to follow. Hesjedal finished third of that stage in a select sprint, awarding himself an eight-second bonus for doing so. After positive results, Hesjedal, however, had several setbacks, which pushed him far back in the peloton of the general classification. Following Stage 12, he withdrew from the race. Misery again followed Hesjedal when he suffered a crash in the Stage 1 of the Tour de France breaking a rib. Despite this he would continue on in the Tour, but finished only 70th in the overall standings.
Hesjedal started the season by scoring a top 10 result in the overall classification of the Giro d'Italia, finishing in ninth position. On Stage 7 of the Vuelta a España, Hesjedal was in a breakaway of four that would make it to the line, but he crashed in a bend and a race motorcycle then accidentally rode on his bike. He finished second of that stage after changing his machine. Controversy arose when it was noted that his bike continued to freewheel when Hesjedal was on the ground after the crash, spinning as if the back wheel was propelled by an engine. However, the fact that the cranks were not turning on their own as the bike was on the ground and a video posted by former teammate Alex Rasmussen demonstrating how the event could happen to any bike cast doubt upon the conspiracy theory. Hesjedal has reacted, saying the claims were 'ridiculous and funny'. Hesjedal won the Combativity Award after that stage. On Stage 14, Hesjedal was once again part of an early escape and took victory by passing Oliver Zaugg in the last 200 meters of the uphill finish, which had gradients of about 15% in it.
2015 saw a merger between Cannondale and Garmin–Sharp, which became Cannondale–Garmin and included Hesjedal as part of their roster. The beginning of the season was somewhat discreet for Hesjedal, who failed to make an impression in the races before April. He was however named as the leader for his team for the mountainous Giro del Trentino. The ordeal got off to a bad start as Hesjedal lost 2:46 on Stage 2 to the winner of the day, Richie Porte. Hesjedal went on to finish the race in fourteenth position. At the Giro d'Italia, Hesjedal lost some time in the first week because of his tendency to ride behind the peloton. However, he was stronger in the third week and clawed his way back to the top ten in the mountainous Stages 18 and 19. In the latter stage, he was second to Fabio Aru. On stage 20 featuring the unpaved Colle delle Finestre, Hesjedal gained some more time and passed Leopold Konig and Steven Kruijswijk on general classification after finishing once again second to Aru.
In August 2015, it was announced that Hesjedal had signed with Trek–Segafredo for the 2016 season.
Hesjedal competed at the Giro d'Italia, however he dropped out of the race on the fourteenth stage due to stomach problems. He subsequently rode at the Critérium du Dauphiné in support of Bauke Mollema, however he was not selected for the Tour de France, and subsequently withdrew himself from consideration for the Canadian team for the Olympics. In August Trek-Segafredo announced that Hesjedal would retire at the end of the season, and that although his final race had not been decided, he would compete in his homeland in the Tour of Alberta, Grand Prix Cycliste de Québec and the Grand Prix Cycliste de Montréal.
In October 2013, following allegations in Michael Rasmussen's book "Yellow Fever", Hesjedal admitted to doping earlier in his career, describing it as his "part in the dark past of the sport".
Hesjedal was born in Victoria, British Columbia. His great-grandparents were Norwegian immigrants from Beiarn in Nordland and the Hesjedal Farm in Stamnes in Vaksdal. Both his parents worked for the Capital Regional District in Victoria
Following the 2012 Giro d'Italia, Hesjedal helped start a charitable group called the "Ryders Cycling Society of Canada", whose stated aim is “to create and sustain opportunities for young Canadians to ride bicycles.” Hesjedal also auctioned a pink jersey he wore as leader of the General classification in the Giro d'Italia for $10,000, and distributed it to help young Canadian cyclists.