While Ryder Hesjedal will be Canada’s lone rider in men’s road cycling at the London Games, the women’s team will be led by one of the country’s greatest Olympians.
Six-time medallist Clara Hughes has returned to cycling after a successful long-track speedskating career and she’s looking to lead her team to success in Sunday’s 120-kilometre road race.
Denise Ramsdem of Yellowknife and Joelle Numainville of Laval, Que., join Hughes in the road events.
They’re keeping quiet about their strategy for Sunday, only saying they’ll focus on whoever’s got the strongest legs on the day.
“The concept of a team is very strong in women’s cycling,” Hughes said Wednesday at a news conference. “Our goal is to get the best result and I’m very excited to have Joelle and Denise as teammates.”
Jacques Landry, the team’s director of high performance, said he was confident Hughes will know how to pull the right strings Sunday.
“She is our captain, she will have carte blanche during the race,” Landry said. “Her wide experience will enable her to properly react to different situations, along with suggestions from (the team’s coach).
“The girls were each chosen for their complementary skills and their ability to work together,” Landry added. “The strategies will evolve throughout the race. Everything will be put in practice for a team victory. If we get a podium, it’s because all three are successful. It will be all for one.”
But the 39-year-old Hughes, a native of Winnipeg who lives in Glen Sutton, Que., warns her opponents that she shouldn’t be overlooked.
“I get great satisfaction from helping my teammates, but I know how to win,” she said. “Anyone who underestimates this ability I have, well, I wish her luck.
“I consider myself fortunate to have all the support I have in all aspects of my career. I can rely on the best equipment in the world and I believe I have the fastest bike. It’s up to me now to prove that I can be the fastest, both strategically and physically.”
Hughes, who will also compete in the women’s time trial, has been on the Olympic cycling podium before. She won two bronze medals at the 1996 Atlanta Games where Canada captured five cycling medals.
“The team this year may have more potential than that of 1996,” she said of a Canadian cycling team that also has medal hopes on the track and in mountain biking.
Victoria’s Hesjedal, who won the Giro d’Italia earlier this year, will ride in Saturday’s men’s road race and the time trial later in the Games.