Ryder Hesjedal has cycled around just about every corner of Europe, but there is one place he has never visited: London. He’ll get his first chance in July as Canada’s only entry in the men’s road race at the Olympics.
“I’m ecstatic,” Hesjedal said Thursday after being named to the team for two events, the road race and the individual time trial. “This is something I looked forward to all season.”
The Victoria native has already had a remarkable season, finishing first in the Giro d’Italia last month and leading Team Garmin-Barracuda into the coming Tour de France. London will be his third Olympics.
The Olympic road race, which is 250 kilometres, is on July 28, just six days after the end of the Tour de France. Hesjedal said the relatively tight schedule isn’t a problem.
He faced a similar schedule before the 2008 Olympics and has competed in other major races shortly after the Tour. He also said his racing schedule has been less gruelling this season because of a late start.
“I’m in the best shape of my life and I think I showed that in the Giro,” he said.
The Tour is such a good preparation for the Olympics, he expects Tour riders will win four out of the six medals up for grabs in the road race and time trial.
Canada will have three entries in the women’s events: Clara Hughes, Joelle Numainville and Denise Ramsden.
This will be Hughes’s sixth Olympics – three in summer as a cyclist and three in winter as a speed skater, including in Vancouver in 2010. She has won six medals, four in skating and two in cycling, and she has been competing in both sports for 22 years.
“It has been so humbling,” Hughes, 39, said of her return to the Summer Games for the first time since Sydney in 2000. “I’m thrilled beyond belief to be on this Olympic team.”
Hughes spent time Thursday reflecting on her long career, saying she has become more patient and accepting.
“Accepting the fact that I live a really quiet life and I live a life that’s dedicated to the pursuit of excellence,” she said. Then she added with a laugh: “It’s not a normal existence.”
But Hughes said she won’t spend any more time on reflection as she prepares for London.
“If I were to sit back and think of everything I did, first of all it would be a long moment and secondly it’s not going to help me. It will not help me go faster,” she said.
When asked if this will be her last Olympics, Hughes wasn’t sure.
“I have no idea what lies ahead after London,” she said. “My life has been sport for 22 years and that’s what has meant the most to me. If it continues, then it continues. If it stops, then I can call it a pretty good career.”
But would she like to go to one more Games? “Yeah, of course. I would love that.”