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Top attacks of 2012: Six moments that stand out

5. Ryder Hesjedal: Pink jersey assertion

When the Giro d’Italia started in Denmark, few counted Ryder Hesjedal as a favorite for the pink jersey. The Italian media completely overlooked him and his rivals didn’t start paying attention until it was too late.

The tale-tell signs were already there that Hesjedal was on good form. He was fastest among the GC challengers in the opening prologue and he remained well-positioned following Garmin-Sharp’s win in the TTT.

A seesaw battle commenced between Hesjedal and Joaquim Rodríguez that would continue all the way to Milan with the nail-biting, 16-second winning margin extracted on the final-day time trial.

It was Hesjedal’s attack three kilometers from the Cat. 1 Cervinia summit in stage 14 that erased any doubts about his intentions and his abilities during the Giro.

The long, grinding road leading up to the Italian side of the Matterhorn was the first shot in the final, climb-heavy third week. Hesjedal surged clear on one of the final switchbacks, leaving the dwindling GC group scrambling to limit its losses with three kilometers to go.

In what became a highly controlled GC battle, the attack was the longest and most effective of the entire Giro among the pink jersey favorites. Crossing the line fourth, Hesjedal extracted 26 seconds from Rodríguez, a difference that would prove critical in the coming battle, and snagged the pink jersey yet again.

The battle for the maglia rosa would go down to the final pedal strokes in Milan, but after Cervinia, the peloton finally realized what Garmin knew from the start: Hesjedal was riding to win.