Hesjedal green lighted for 2012 Giro d’Italia

Ryder Hesjedal will lead Garmin-Cervélo in Italy this spring and hopes to turn it into a big ride at the Tour de France

Ryder Hesjedal with the Cervelo bike he plans on riding to the finish of the Giro d'Italia later this year. Hesjedal is competing next week in Australia's Tour Down Under.

He was already named Canada’s cyclist of the decade, but 2012 could be the biggest of Ryder Hesjedal’s career so far.

Team Garmin-Cervélo has opened the door for Hesjedal to lead the attack at the Giro d’Italia in May, the first of the Grand Tours with France in July and Spain in August.

Last week, Hesjedal was in his hometown to promote the second running of Ryder Hesjedal’s Tour de Victoria. After which, he explained where he fits in with his team’s strategy for the upcoming race season. The already hectic season also includes the Olympics in early August, should Hesjedal earn Canada’s only spot.

The Tour de Victoria gran fondo event has been moved to June 24, just a week before the Tour de France. Not surprisingly, Hesjedal broke the news he won’t be part of this year’s Victoria race.

“But I’ll be watching to see if anyone can come close to my hill time (on the climb at Munn’s Road).”

Newly appointed title sponsor GoodLife Fitness isn’t worried about the event’s popularity lagging without Hesjedal’s presence. Organizer Seamus McGrath, an Olympic cyclist himself, is working to attract other big name cyclists to join the ride.

Hesjedal, too, offered a glimmer of hope that he might make it after all.

“I’m not counting myself totally out, you never know in cycling,” Hesjedal said.

Hesjedal’s best season on the Tour de France came two years ago when he finished seventh overall. He hasn’t raced the Giro since 2008. The demanding three-week ride is similar to France.

“It’s humbling to actually have a world-class team tell me, ‘you’re the rider for our world tour ambitions,’ Hesjedal said. Last season Hesjedal finished 18th overall, helping Garmin-Cervélo win the team trophy, while legging significant miles at the front of the peloton. This year, should things go right, those duties will be performed for Hesjedal, who aims for a top finish.

“The road to Paris starts in Italy.”