Monday, June 10, 2013

Hesjedal suffers bruising, head and neck injuries at Tour de Suisse


Ryder Hesjedal (left). Kathleen Nelson photo.
What is it about last year's Grand Tour winners? They seem snake-bitten this year.

First, Sir Bradley Wiggins departed the Giro with respiratory problems. Then, he was ruled out of defending his Tour de France title.

A tougher pill to swallow for the locals is the plight of our adopted townie, Ryder Hesjedal. Canadian by birth, he married into St. Louisan-ism by wedding McCluer grad Ashley Hofer. Hesjedal won the 2012 Giro d'Italia but has endured hardship after hardship since. He left last year's Tour de France because of a crash on Stage 6 and cut short his defense of the Giro, when illness overcame him halfway through.

None was tougher to watch than today, when he crashed out of the Tour de Suisse and suffered bruises and injuries to his head and neck.

Things appeared to have turned around for Hesjedal, who showed the panache of a winner in attacking on the final climb of Stage 2 Sunday but was caught just before the end. He seemed to announce his return with authority to both the Tour de Suisse and the possibility of a podium finish in the Tour de France and was in second place before crashing on the way to Meringen. Photos showed Hesjedal in a neck brace before he was taken to a hospital for observation.

The Garmin web site crashed because of heavy traffic, but here's the news: he suffered cuts and bruises to the right wrist, hip and knee as well as the left should, elbow and knee. Preliminary CTs showed no fractures and "no neurological pathologies."

The team suggested that Hesjedal could return to training, but head and neck injuries are particularly tricky, and his participation in the Tour de France isn't a slam dunk.

It's not just the tenuous local connection that makes him a favourite. Hesjedal attacks with style, like he means it, and with effect. He doesn't stick his toe in the water, he dives or cannonballs in. He doesn't always end up the winner, but he forces others to respond, and he shakes up what too often becomes a predictable mountain stage. He forces other to react, "to come out and play," as Phil and Paul would say.

And again, the fates of Hesjedal and Lord Wiggins illustrate that winning is elusive, that top form is fleeting, that good health goes a long way and that all the ducks have to be in a row to find success in cycling. And that Lance made it all look unbelievably easy.