MILAN (VN) — Ryder Hesjedal woke up this morning for the first time in three weeks without having to race his bike.
He also woke up the champion of the 95th Giro d’Italia. With that honor comes a lot of attention, particularly from the Garmin-Barracuda rider’s native Canada, where he is the nation’s first grand tour winner. Hesjedal took a phone call from VeloNews on Monday, moments before he jumped on a plane to return to his European base in Spain.
VeloNews: How did you celebrate last night?
Ryder Hesjedal: We had a really nice dinner with the team and staff and some family and friends who came over from Canada in a nice family-style Italian restaurant. It was real cozy and nice. They had a big pink cake and some pink lobster. It was great.
VN: It’s obviously huge news in Canada, how many interviews have you done today?
RH: I’ve lost count. We did a ton of radio stuff this afternoon, when it was morning back in Canada. It’s on the front page of every newspaper back home. It’s pretty huge in Canada. It feels good.
VN: What was going through your mind on the start ramp yesterday in Milan?
RH: I knew I had to have the time of my life in order to win the Giro. I really wasn’t comfortable until I got out on the bike. Once I was on the course and I felt how good my legs were, I knew they were good. I just tried to stay focused and do my ride. I was ready for it. I was happy to be there and to go for it. I knew in the morning after pre-riding the course that my legs were good. That’s all I needed.
VN: What was the emotion once you crossed the line and realized you had just won the Giro?
RH: It’s pretty unreal and overwhelming. I thought I could look at the clock and even compute the time differences, but the effort was so intense, I couldn’t even see straight. People were explaining to me that I had done it. It was pretty crazy. It was a huge elation and relief when I had finished and I had won. It was a quest that took everyday, step-by-step. It’s hard to explain. It was almost surreal, like I was in a dream state when I was on the podium, getting the pink jersey and the trophy. It feels a little more real today. The dust has settled and I am the winner of the Giro d’Italia.
VN: Not many people counted you as a potential winner when the Giro started, but did you truly believe you could win?
RH: I was very confident. I was very believing in my abilities, based on what I have done the past few Tours. I was confident I was going to have a good ride. You never know how good the other rivals are going to be. I can understand why. I have never been on a grand tour podium before or even finished in the top five. But at the same time, you do not want to put limits on yourself. I was open-minded during the whole race. Maybe now a few people will think twice about me.
VN: How have you spent your first day as a Giro winner?
RH: I took it easy in the morning. I had breakfast with the team. I’ve been catching up with my friends and family who came over from Canada. I had a nice lunch in Milan and I’ve been doing media interviews all day. Pretty much just chilling out.
VN: Do you have to pinch yourself when you think that you’ve just won the Giro?
RH: It’s incredible. I respect the Giro. It’s as high as anything in the sport. This is a hard race. This is what it’s all about. This is as prestigious as anything you can do in the sport. I am proud of how my team rode and how I rode for three weeks. I am very happy.
VN: Is it confirmed you will ride the Tour de France?
RH: We’re going to sit down in a few days and decide. We’re just taking this all in right now. We will sit down in a few days and plan out the rest of the season. There are other important races, too, and we want to make a good plan and do a schedule that is most beneficial to the team as well as for me. But to tell the truth, I do not want to think about those things right now.
VN: So you’re heading back to Spain, what are you going to do when you get back to Girona?
RH: I am just going to chill out and relax.