Forget the fact that Canadian cyclist Ryder Hesjedal collapsed onto the ground sucking wind at the mountaintop finish of Stage 19 at the Giro d’Italia today.
The 31-year-old cyclist from Vancouver destroyed his rivals on the final climb on Friday, including race leader Joaquim Rodriguez and Italians Ivan Basso and Michele Scarponi, both former Giro champions.
Hesjedal sits in second place overall. The Garmin Barracuda cyclist stands a good chance of becoming the first Canadian to win the Giro championship on Sunday.
All he has to do is survive in good standing on Saturday’s “queen stage” (see below) that features five climbs, including the summit finish at Passo Dello Stelvio, and hold off his rivals in the individual time trial on the streets of Milan on Sunday.
Czechoslovakia’s Roman Kreuziger (Astana) won the mountainous 122-mile stage from Treviso to Alpe di Pampeago on Friday. While he chased down a leading pack of four on the final climb, the rivals for the maglia rosa were battling among themselves down the slope.
Scarponi, Basso and Hesjedal took turns attacking each other at overall leader Rodriguez gamely held on. Then, one by one, the leaders lost gas until none could answer Hesjedal’s attacks.
The Canadian entered the race as Garmin Barracuda’s team leader and emerged as the first Canadian ever to wear the maglia rosa after Stage 7. Then he lost it for a few stages before regaining it briefly last week.
He came into Stage 19 in second place overall, 30 seconds behind Rodriguez. Observers began touting him as the man to beat; today’s performance proved it.
Hesjedal put 13 seconds into the margin to first place on Friday, trailing Rodriguez by just 17 seconds. Scarponi trails by 1:39 and Basso by 1:45.
If Hesjedal can manage to maintain his position in Saturday’s brutal stage, then he stands to knock Rodriguez out of the top slot in Sunday’s final stage.
How? Hesjedal beat Rodriguez by 14 seconds in the opening time trial way back on May 5. Sunday’s upcoming individual time trial is more than three times the distance, creating the possibility that the Canadian can gain more than 45 seconds on Rodriguez.
Here’s a StreetView tour from CyclingtheAlps that shows Saturday’s the final climb on Passo Dello Stelvio.
Top 10 overall
1. Joaquim Rodriguez Oliver (Spa) – Katusha Team
2. Ryder Hesjedal (Can) Garmin – Barracuda 17 seconds behind
3. Michele Scarponi (Ita) – Lampre – ISD, 1:39
4. Ivan Basso (Ita) – Liquigas-Cannondale, 1:45
5. Rigoberto Uran Uran (Col) – Sky Procycling, 3:21
6. Domenico Pozzovivo (Ita) – Colnago – CSF Inox, 3:30
7. John Gadret (Fra) – Ag2R La Mondiale, 5:36
8. Thomas De Gendt (Bel) – Vacansoleil-DCM Pro Cycling Team, 5:40
9. Sergio Luis Henao Montoya (Col) – Sky Procycling, 5:47
10. Damiano Cunego (Ita) – Lampre – ISD, 6:09