Ryder Hesjedal was the third rider to cross the finish line of Tuesday’s 16th stage of the Tour de France, right behind winner Thor Hushovd and second-place winner Edvald Boasson Hagen, both of Norway. Hesjedal, it turns out, can claim strong Norwegian roots as well, giving the country pretty much of a clean sweep at the most prestigious cycling race in the world.
With a name like Hesjedal, Norwegian viewers of Tuesday’s TV coverage were already suspecting that the young man who helped clear the way for Hushovd just had to be of Norwegian descent. He was born and raised in Canada, but sure enough, his great-grandparents emigrated to Canada from Stamnes in Hordaland County, northeast of Bergen. There’s even a village in the area called Hesjedal, known for its waterfall.
So Hushovd and Boasson Hagen aren’t really the only two Norwegians in this year’s Tour de France, despite what they may claim. Hesjedal, age 30, deserves some recognition in Norway, too, not least for the role he played in helping assure Hushovd’s victory. He’s a teammate of Hushovd on Team Garmin-Cervelo, and they together overcame Boasson Hagen from the competing Team Sky.
Hesjedal hails from Victoria, British Columbia and is a former mountain biker, according to Wikipedia. He’s a cycling hero in Canada, winning the honor of “Cyclist of the Decade” in his homeland in 2009, not least after becoming the first Canadian to compete in the Tour de France in more than 10 years.
On Tuesday he was just two seconds behind his fellow ethnic Norwegians and provided teammate Hushovd with a major assist. He told the newspaper Victoria Sun that he had seen a chance for victory himself, “but then Thor got pulled up and it was two-on-one (for the Garmin-Cervelo team versus Boasson Hagen’s Team Sky).
“Thor is the world champion and I knew I had to get him in the best situation to take it over Hagen.”
The trio broke away from the pack at the end of the hard 162.5-kilometer stage, with fourth-place finisher Tony Martin of Germany a full 36 seconds behind Hesjedal.
“You can’t complain about a finish like that for your squad,” the gracious Hesjedal told the Victoria Sun. “It was an all-round great day, an infectious moment, and a huge step for our team in the standings.”
Boasson Hagen was painfully clear over Hesjedal’s contribution to the Garmin-Cervelo team victory. “It was a strong performance by Thor, but with two Garmin riders (at the finish) he almost should have won,” Boasson told Norwegian Broadcasting (NRK). He had a hard time sprinting against both of them.
Cheering Norwegian fans on the sidelines, typically waving Norwegian flags, created what NRK’s reporter called a “pure 17th of May atmosphere,” referring to Norway’s national day celebrations. The happy supporters sang “Seieren er vår” (“The victory is ours”) for hours, and Hushovd said it all added to his motivation.
Hesjedal could likely feel some allegiance to all the Norwegian flags, but hopefully some Canadian Maple Leafs were waving as well.
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