Call it dodging a bullet.
Ryder Hesjedal (Garmin-Sharp) has had his share of bad luck of late, including crashing out of the Tour de Suisse on Monday, but the Canadian is counting his blessings.
Despite a high-speed tumble in the third stage at the Swiss tour, Hesjedal is back on the bike in training and fully expects to be able to start the Tour de France in a little more than two weeks.
“It’s frustrating, because I showed I was in good shape coming back from training after the Giro, but I have to look at the positive,” Hesjedal told VeloNews on Thursday. “I’m not seriously injured and I am back to training and my preparation for the Tour.”
The 2012 Giro champ is breathing a sigh of relief that “nothing is too out of place” after getting his front wheel swiped out from underneath him on Monday.
Hesjedal said a rider in front of him made an erratic move, and took out the Canadian’s front wheel. As the peloton was whipping along at about 150 kilometers into the 203km stage, there was little he could do.
“He came across my front wheel. I don’t know if he was avoiding something or what. At that high speed, it happened so fast, there was nothing you could do,” he explained. “All my weight and momentum were going the opposite direction. I tried to keep it up. Someone hit me from my right side, and it got me spinning even more. I took the brunt of my fall on my upper back and neck. It’s pretty scary when it’s happening.”
A crash at high speed — Hesjedal wasn’t sure at how fast, but said “these days, 50kph seems slow” — is always worrisome.
Photographs later revealed how worried doctors were. Medical personnel on the scene placed him in a neck brace and strapped him onto a stretcher before transporting him to a local hospital.
Despite the bangs and bruises that came with a fall, Hesjedal was grateful he could rejoin the team later that night at the hotel. The next day, he returned to Girona and remounted his bike for training by Wednesday.
“Fortunately, we got to the hospital, and we got all the X-rays and scans, and nothing was broken,” he said. “I did an easy hour on the bike [Wednesday], and had a good training ride today. I am pretty stoked that I am feeling OK.”
Hesjedal is hoping he can turn his luck around and ride into the Tour in good condition to challenge for the podium.
Garmin still has not announced its Tour roster, but Hesjedal is hopeful he will be ready to hit the start June 29 in Corsica.
“That’s the plan,” he said. “By not being injured, I can continue training and my preparation. It would have been nice to get the racing in at Swiss, but I’ve shown I can be at a high level without it. That just means I will have to work a little bit harder.”
Hesjedal, 32, couldn’t help but wonder out loud how much more bad luck he needs to endure.
“It’s not like I am superstitious, but how much do I have to pay for that Giro win?” Hesjedal said half-jokingly. “From everything going perfect, everything going your way, to going into the Tour with good form [in 2012]. It’s gotta give some time. The luck will have to turn sometime.”
Since winning the Giro in 2012, it’s certainly been a rough ride.
After his Giro triumph to become the first Canadian to win a grand tour, he rolled into last year’s Tour feeling stronger than ever, only to get caught up in a massive crash in the first week, forcing an early exit without knowing what could have happened.
This spring, things were on track for his Giro defense looking strong. A chest infection, however, knocked him back, and he was forced out by the second week.
After a week off the bike to let his body recover, he put in some good miles to prepare for the Tour de Suisse. The opening days were promising, and he was within three seconds of the leader’s jersey when he crashed.
“I am confident in the form. I just gotta get to the point where I can use it,” he said. “That’s the only thing I can look at as a positive. I can’t say the season’s gone bad. It’s just been frustrating, from leaving the Giro, to crashing in Swiss. Other than that, the form’s been there.”
Hesjedal will return to the Alps next week, this time to preview some key climbing stages he hopes to be seeing in the Tour de France next month.
Hesjedal is hoping with a bit of luck he will get the chance.