'Ryding' Into the Tour de France Top-10

Canadians had reason to celebrate on Sunday, as cyclist Ryder Hesjedal finished seventh overall in the world’s most prestigious cycling race, the Tour de France. The Victoria native finished the enduring competition with a time of 92 hours, nine minutes and three seconds, marking the best Canadian showing since Steve Bauer’s fourth-place finish in 1988.

In 2008 and 2009, Hesjedal was the lone Canadian to compete in the 3,500+ km Tour de France, placing 47th and 49th respectively. This year, Hesjedal was joined by fellow Canadian Michael Barry of Toronto. Competing in his first Tour de France, Barry finished 99th overall.

Although the Tour de France is the most decorated cycling race in the world, it is not the first time Hesjedal has made his country proud. The 29-year-old is a two-time Olympian, most recently competing at the Beijing 2008 Olympic Games. In the individual road time trial, Hesjedal placed 16th overall, Canada’s best-ever result in the event.

Now one of Canada’s top road cyclists, Hesjedal actually began his cycling career in mountain biking. In 1999 he captured a World Championship bronze in the mountain bike team relay. In 2001 and 2002, he became a two-time world champion in the mountain bike team relay. A year later, he took silver in the cross country event.

Hesjedal would later turn his attention to road cycling, finishing 22nd in time trial at the 2006 World Championships. That year Hesjedal also finished fourth overall at Volta a Catalunya in Spain, and 17th overall at Dauphiné Libere – top rider on his team and third amongst North Americans.

Building upon this, Hesjedal was recently voted Canada’s cyclist of the decade and male cyclist of the year. Recent victories include a win on the final stage of the 2010 Tour de California and a historic Canadian-first stage victory at the Spanish Vuelta.

With all of Hesjedal’s recent success, it is no wonder that his cycling team, Garmin-Transitions, recently announced a contract extension for Hesjedal through 2013.