Ryder Hesjedal Wins Giro d’Italia 2012

→ Photo from CBC Sports

Victoria’s Ryder Hesjedal has become the first Canadian, and only the second non-European, to win the Giro d’Italia. He did so in dramatic fashion, taking over the pink jersey from Spain’s Joaquim Rodríguez in the final stage, a 30-km time trial through the streets of Milan.

Coming into the 21st stage of competition, Hesjedal had a 31-second deficit to overcome, which he did handily, beating Rodriguez in the time trial by 47 seconds. Rodriguez took second place overall, and Belgium’s Thomas de Gent came in third, 1:39 behind Hesjedal.

Hesjedal’s previous best finish was sixth place in the Tour de France in 2010, and Canada’s best showing at a Grand Tour was Steve Bauer’s fourth-place finish at 1988’s Tour de France. The only other non-European to win the Giro d’Italia was USA’s Andy Hampsten, who took the title in 1988. Italy has dominated its Giro, taking 67 overall victories since the race’s inception in 1909.

Trading back and forth with Rodríguez for the overall lead, Hesjedal held the pink jersey after stages 7-9 and 14 of this year’s Giro, but Rodríguez wore it coming into the last stage. After a heavy climbing course in stage 19, the difference between the two cyclists shrank to 19 seconds, but Rodríguez put more space between them after a grueling 219-km stage 20, which saw competitors gain more than 2000 m of elevation in the final 44 km.

However, Hesjedal was favoured coming in to the final stage because of his strength in the time trials. Rodríguez acknowledged that he had not put enough of a cushion behind him heading into Milan, and that the 2012 Giro was Hesjedal’s to lose.

The final stage was flat and short, allowing competitors to reach tremendous speeds. The stage’s winner, Marco Pinotti of Italy, finished in 33:06, reaching an average speed of 55 km/h. Hesjedal was not much slower: he averaged 53 km/h.

Sussex, New Brunswick’s Christian Meier was the next-best Canadian finisher, at 135th place overall, 4:23:03 behind first place. Svein Tuft of Langley, BC, finished 148th, 4:52:35 back. Boucherville, Québec’s Dominique Rollin’s results were not available.

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