LAC MEGANTIC, Que. – Two of the biggest names in Canadian cycling team will compete in the road competition at the London Games.
Giro d’Italia winner Ryder Hesjedal and Olympic veteran Clara Hughes headline the four-member team announced Thursday by Cycling Canada.
Hesjedal, a Victoria native, will compete in the men’s time trial and road race. Hughes, a Winnipeg native, will make her return to Olympic cycling after several years as a competitive long-track speedskater.
“I’m thrilled beyond belief to be on this Olympic team,” Hughes said on a conference call. “Just to have the chance and the honour to have earned my spot on the Canadian Olympic team again for the sixth time in my life is something that I do not take for granted.
“It’s something that’s so special for me.”
Hesjedal was just as excited to get the nod.
“I’m ecstatic,” he said. “It’s something that I was looking forward to all season. I’ve based my season around it. To be finally selected puts the pieces in place so that I can continue to do the work and work towards the goal.”
Joelle Numainville of Montreal and Denise Ramsden of Yellowknife, N.W.T., will join Hughes on the women’s team.
This will be Hesjedal’s third straight Summer Games. The Garmin-Barracuda rider won the Giro last month to become the first Canadian to capture one of cycling’s three major tour titles.
Hughes, who will compete in the women’s time trial and road race, won two cycling bronze medals at the 1996 Atlanta Games and hasn’t participated in a Summer Olympics since 2000.
If she wins a medal in London, Hughes would become Canada’s most decorated Olympian. She’s currently tied with former speedskating teammate Cindy Klassen with six Olympic medals.
The Team Specialized-Lululemon rider will race for Canada in the road race and time trial. Hughes made her return to cycling two seasons ago and finished fifth in the individual time trial at the recent UCI World Championships.
“I have 13 years in cycling under my belt but I just feel like I’m learning so much in this process,” Hughes said. “It’s a pretty special place to be as a 39-year-old.”
She won the road race and the time trial at the 2011 UCI Pan-American Championships and was victorious last year at the Tour of the Gila, Cascade Classic and the Mount Hood Classic.
It will be a busy summer season for Hesjedal, who is preparing to ride at the Tour de France next month. He competed in the Giro and the Tour before the Beijing Games and is ready for another packed summer schedule.
“I’m in the best shape of my life, I think I showed that in the Giro,” he said. “My season has been built around coming into shape at that time (for London) and being able to continue that way.”
Numainville and Ramsden both race for the Optum-Kelly Benefits team. Ramsden will compete in the road race and time trial while Numainville will compete in the road race.
Hughes has won two of Canada’s three Olympic medals in road cycling. Steve Bauer won the other, taking the silver medal at the 1984 Games in Los Angeles.