Hesjedal becomes first Canadian to win Giro d'Italia
Published Sunday, May 27, 2012 9:57PM EDT
Cyclist Ryder Hesjedal says he "left everything on the streets of Milan" to become the first Canadian to win the prestigious Giro d'Italia on Sunday.
The Victoria, B.C. native managed to capture the second biggest race behind the Tour de France with a come-from-behind victory over Spain's Joaquin Rodriguez in Sunday's final time trial.
Upon finishing, the 31-year-old Hesjedal said going into Sunday's final stage, he knew he "had to give everything" in order to win.
"I just left everything on the streets of Milan, and I was able to get enough time back and pull it off," Hesjedal told CTV News Channel in a telephone interview from Italy. "That's it. It's just focus, and not giving up the opportunity."
Hesjedal came into the day trailing by 31 seconds, but finished the 30-kilometre stage in 34:15 to win by 16 seconds to capture the pink jersey.
"This is the first time ever that we have had a cyclist in pink in Milan and it's a great day for Canadian cycling," Jacques Landry, the head coach of Cycling Canada, told News Channel. "This is definitely a great feat."
Hesjedal is now the first Canadian to win one of the three Grand Tour races and is an early favourite for next month's Tour de France.
"So far he has proven that he can come up where he has said he can perform and if the Tour de France is his next objective I am certain that he will show us again what he is made of," said Landry.
Hesjedal said he plans to enjoy the next few days, including a celebratory dinner with his teammates, friends and his wife, before drawing up a training plan for the Tour de France.
Hesjedal said his victory was the culmination of "years of hard work."
"It's unreal," he said. "I've been doing this for a long time but it still amazes me what we're able to accomplish. And I'm going to savour this for a long time."
Prime Minister Stephen Harper was among those to praise Hesjedal's victory.
"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," Harper said in a statement.
Meanwhile, Lance Armstrong, the seven-time Tour de France winner, also praised Hesjedal.
"Congratulations to @ryder--hesjedal on his incredible victory in the #giro. Gotta love it when the best man wins," tweeted Armstrong.