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Ryder's 'incredible day'

May 13 2012
Victoria's Ryder Hesjedal, wearing the pink jersey as overall leader, sprays sparkling wine on the podium in Rocca di Cambio, Italy, Saturday, after the seventh stage of the Giro d'Italia cycling race. 

Victoria's Ryder Hesjedal, wearing the pink jersey as overall leader, sprays sparkling wine on the podium in Rocca di Cambio, Italy, Saturday, after the seventh stage of the Giro d'Italia cycling race.

Photograph by: Gian Mattia D'alberto, Associated Press , Times Colonist

It was Ryder Hesjedal's Super Saturday across two continents.

The Victoria cycling star was pretty in pink, taking the maglia rosa jersey as overall leader of the Giro d'Italia, and was also immortalized inside Saveon-Foods Memorial Centre.

Hesjedal became the first Canadian to capture the pink jersey as overall leader of the Giro, the world's second most prestigious annual cycling race after the Tour de France.

"This was an incredible day and a decisive day," said Hesjedal by phone from Italy.

Paolo Tiralongo of Italy won the seventh stage, a 202-kilometre medium climb from Recanati to Rocca di Cambio, with Hesjedal in fifth position, five seconds behind the winner.

The result vaulted the Islander, third heading into the day, into the overall lead 15 seconds ahead of Tiralongo and 17 seconds ahead of third-place Olivier Joaquin Rodriguez of Spain.

Meanwhile, a continent away in his hometown, one of Hesjedal's bikes was mounted on permanent display inside the Memorial Centre, along with that of Victoria cycling legend and fellow-Olympian Torchy Peden.

It is the latest of the ongoing displays being added inside the Memorial Centre by the Greater Victoria Sports Hall of Fame and follows others honouring Island Olympians and Island hockey, curling and rowing history.

The instalment ceremony was part of a volunteer rally for the Ryder Hesjedal Tour de Victoria on June 24.

"Hopefully, everybody at that volunteer rally back home was excited about me taking the pink jersey," said Hesjedal, who was top-10 overall in the 2010 Tour de France and top-20 in 2011.

"I know I'm really excited and honoured to have my bike permanently on display inside the arena."

Hesjedal knows his mind can't be on Blanshard Street for long but must refocus on the roads of Italy, most immediately the one ascending from Sulmona to Lago Laceno for today's medium-climb 229-kilometre eighth stage. Taking the pink jersey is one thing, defending it quite another.

"There is a lot of work and a certain responsibility involved in wearing the pink jersey," said Hesjedal, now the obvious and clear favourite to be chosen by the Canadian Cycling Association for Canada's lone berths in the men's road race and time trial in the 2012 London Summer Olympics.

He knows he will be challenged hard for the jersey and it will change wearers a few times yet. The goal is to be adorned in the maglia rosa May 27 when the final stage of the Tour rolls into Milan.

"You have to know your limits and means. You have to look three weeks down the road to wearing it in the end stage," said Hesjedal. "There are all sorts of ways you can play the race."

Right now, Hesjedal is playing it near flawlessly.

"This is a great result," Jacques Landry, high performance director of the Canadian Cycling Association, said in a statement.

"Having a Canadian wearing the pink jersey is an indicator Canada is getting stronger as a cycling nation. Every cyclist and cycling fan in Canada should be proud of the accomplishment."

The closest any previous Canadian cyclist came to wearing the pink jersey was the great Steve Bauer, who labelled Hesjedal's achievement "awesome, certainly a landmark accomplishment."

Bauer added: "It shows the progress of our nation. Ryder is without a doubt a leader in the progress, on a large scale. It gives the inspiration - [to] every [rider] in Canada to do the same. It's long overdue and great to see."

cdheensaw@timescolonist.com

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