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Hesjedal changes mindset, goes on the attack at the Vuelta

ALCAUDETE, Spain (VN) — Two days after getting caught in an ambush in crosswinds that all but ended his GC hopes in the Vuelta a España, Ryder Hesjedal (Garmin-Sharp) was on the march in Friday’s stage across treacherous roads.

Hesjedal punched into the day’s winning breakaway, the first successful break of this year’s Vuelta, but a late crash dashed his hopes for the stage win. The Canadian rode across the line second at 1:34 behind winner Alessandro De Marchi (Cannondale), frustrated but content with his efforts.

“I was on De Marchi’s wheel, and my bike just went out from underneath me. It’s pretty frustrating,” Hesjedal told VeloNews. “De Marchi and I were doing the lion’s share of the work. Who knows what would have happened. Hat’s off to De Marchi, he was super strong all day. I was in for a shot for the win, so it’s pretty frustrating.”

Hesjedal’s crash was similar to one involving grand tour rookie Lawson Craddock (Giant-Shimano) earlier this week. Roads in southern Spain are covered in dust, grime, and oil, baking under an intense sun without rain for weeks if not months.

“The roads were pretty treacherous out there,” he said. “We were managing it pretty well, but my bike just slipped out from underneath me.”

Hesjedal’s presence in Friday’s breakaway revealed just how much this Vuelta has changed for the 2012 Giro d’Italia champion.

After skipping the Tour de France, he came into the Vuelta with quiet optimism of fighting for a top spot overall.

Those hopes evaporated Wednesday in an otherwise routine stage when Tinkoff-Saxo accelerated in crosswinds to try to split up the bunch. Unfortunately for Hesjedal, he was one of the biggest names caught in their trap, but he questioned Tinkoff-Saxo’s style of the attack.

“I am not a big fan of moves like that. We had just gone through a small village, with cobbles, and then a big descent, so the entire peloton is single-file, and then they drill it,” Hesjedal said. “Someone loses the wheel, and you’re caught out.

“I had Nathan [Brown] with me, but he punctured. Dan [Martin] was in the second group, and most of the team was having to deal with that. It was real hectic, and I didn’t have time to come back,” he said. “There were not a lot of guys in my group working. Basically, it was a 45km time trial. You cannot compete alone against the majority of the peloton.”

Hesjedal lost more than three minutes, and admitted he didn’t have great legs in Thursday’s explosive finale up La Zubia, losing even more time.

“The legs just weren’t there, so I rode up at my own pace,” Hesjedal said. “I have a different mindset now. The GC is over for me. We still have Dan [Martin], and we’ll ride to protect him. We’ll also be looking for other opportunities.”

Hesjedal was rewarded with the day’s most combative rider’s prize for his efforts. Garmin-Sharp’s second second-place stage finish — Martin was second in stage 3 — will only fuel their drive to win a stage before this Vuelta is over.