Ottawa Citizen

Giro d’Italia win pushes Hes­jedal to top male Cana­dian ath­lete award,

First Cana­dian to claim vic­tory in a Grand Tour event

- NEIL DAVID­SON

TORONTO • Don’t tell Ry­der Hes­jedal he won the Giro d’Italia on the last day.

His victorious ride lasted 91 hours 39 min­utes and two sec­onds over 21 stages, cov­er­ing 3,503.8 kilo­me­tres from Hern­ing, Den­mark, to Mi­lan.

It took 23 days in May — there were two rest days — and the help of ev­ery one of his Garmin-Sharp team­mates and sup­port staff for Hes­jedal to be­come the first Cana­dian racer to win a Grand Tour event and only the sec­ond non-Euro­pean to win the Giro.

His jour­ney from pelo­ton to podium took him more than a dozen years as a pro, from moun­tain biker to road racer.

And now it has led him to the Lionel Conacher Award, the first cy­clist to be named Cana­dian Press male ath­lete of the year.

“An in­cred­i­ble hon­our,” the soft­spo­ken Hes­jedal said from his off­sea­son home in Hawaii.

“I fin­ished 2011, I got mar­ried to my beau­ti­ful wife (Ash­ley) and I was just fo­cused on that goal — tak­ing a crack at the Giro and know­ing that deep down I have the ca­pac­ity for three-week rac­ing,” he added.

“For the sea­son to un­fold the way it did in the spring and have that per­fect run really, in re­spect to my train­ing was just right, I didn’t get sick, I had no set­backs. To ar­rive at the Giro and have it un­fold the way it did, I had the op­por­tu­nity to show my­self and that’s what ath­letes dream of.”

The award is named af­ter the multi-sport ath­lete who was cho­sen Canada’s ath­lete of the half-cen­tury. The win­ner of the Bob­bie Rosen­feld Award as Canada’s fe­male ath­lete of the year will be an­nounced Thurs­day.

Hes­jedal fin­ished with 139 points and 32 first-place votes in bal­lot­ing of sports edi­tors and broad­cast­ers across the coun­try. Ten­nis star Mi­los Raonic was run­ner-up with 131 points and 26 first-place votes.

Cal­gary Stam­ped­ers run­ning back Jon Cornish was third (87, 14), fol­lowed by Tampa Bay Light­ning sniper Steven Stamkos (69, 12) and fig­ure skater Pa­trick Chan (68, 11).

“Ry­der Hes­jedal put him­self, and Cana­dian cy­cling, on the world stage with his his­toric vic­tory in the Giro d’Italia,” said Ya­hoo’s Steve McAl­lis­ter.

Cy­cling has taken its share of body blows this year with Lance Arm­strong’s spec­tac­u­lar fall from grace.

But vot­ers around the world have sin­gled out cy­clists from the sport’s cur­rent crop for their ef­forts.

In ad­di­tion to Cana­dian me­dia hon­our­ing Hes­jedal, Tour de France win­ner and Olympic time trial cham­pion Bradley Wig­gins was re­cently named the 2012 BBC Sports Per­son­al­ity of the Year. And Tom Boo­nen was cho­sen Bel­gium’s Sports­man of the Year.

What­ever hap­pens in 2013, Hes­jedal has al­ready earned his place on the Giro hon­our roll along­side leg­ends like Miguel In­durain, Eddy Mer­ckx and Jacques An­quetil.

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 ?? LUK BEINES/AFP/GETTY IM­AGES ?? Ry­der Hes­jedal fin­ished with 139 points and 32 first-place votes in bal­lot­ing of sports edi­tors and broad­cast­ers across the coun­try.
LUK BEINES/AFP/GETTY IM­AGES Ry­der Hes­jedal fin­ished with 139 points and 32 first-place votes in bal­lot­ing of sports edi­tors and broad­cast­ers across the coun­try.

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