(L-R) Johan Vansummeren of Belgium, Tom Danielson of the USA, Christian Vande Velde of the USA and Ryder Hesjedal of Canada riding for Team Garmin-Sharp take a training ride in preparation for the Tour de France on June 28, 2012 in Lanaken, Belgium. Sharp was announced a co-title sponsor at a press conference. (Photo by Doug Pensinger/Getty Images)
By Marine Hass
LIEGE, Belgium, June 28 (Reuters) – Boosted by his victory in the Giro d’Italia, Ryder Hesjedal believes he has as good a chance as anybody of winning the Tour de France.
Last month the 31-year-old Garmin-Sharp rider became the first Canadian to win a Grand Tour.
“It was amazing from the beginning to the end,” said Hesjedal. “I finished the race good and wasn’t dead … I was the opposite, I was energized and motivated.
“It was fun to ride my bike directly after and I decided to make sure I took enough rest and got back in training. I do feel like I am at the same level as anybody else in the Tour de France.”
The two favorites for the race that starts on Saturday are defending champion Cadel Evans of Australia and Briton Bradley Wiggins.
Wiggins has been almost unbeatable in time trials in 2012 and riding against the clock is going to be as important as ever this year.
“I haven’t seen much of Cadel and those guys,” said Hesjedal who finished sixth in the 2010 Tour. “But I raced some of the top riders at the Giro and I respect them very much.”
The Canadian said he was often at his strongest in the third week of the race, at the stage when most riders falter.
“I don’t know if guys weaken or I get stronger,” he said. “But in the Giro and the last Tour de France I have been at my best in the third week and that’s where the biggest difference is made.”