Cowbells and congratulations welcome Ryder Hesjedal back to Victoria

by Raymond Parker on August 13, 2012

in Advocacy, Cycling, Events, Photography, Racing

Ryder reaches out

Ryder Hesjedal received a hero’s welcome home to Victoria on Friday. Fans turned out by the hundreds to celebrate the return of the cycling champion, who this year became the first Canadian to win a Grand Tour with a first place finish at the Giro d’Italia.

The fête at Centennial Square was preceded by a parade of cyclists along Government Street. For once Hesjedal didn’t have to turn a pedal; he was transported by pedicab to the event.

MLA Ida Chong presented Hesjedal with a certificate commemorating his Giro win, while Mayor Dean Fortin proclaimed August 10th Ryder Hesjedal Day and, to the racer’s surprise, unveiled new bike parking racks bearing pink plaques recalling the colour of the Giro winner’s jersey.

Ryder’s racks

The unfortunate crash and resulting injuries, that took him out of contention in the Tour de France and disappointing results at the London Olympics were forgotten amid the adulation and celebration of his great accomplishments and the effect his ambassadorship has had on the sport of cycling in Canada.

“Ryder is a wonderful example of the passion and determination of our local athletes. All of Canada is proud of his remarkable achievement,” said Fortin.

Cheques from the Ryders Cycling Society were disbursed to local athletes and children’s cycling advocates Kidical Mass YYJ.

A more informal meet and greet followed, with Hesjedal, family and friends relaxing on a couch, answering questions and telling personal stories. Emotions peaked with Leonard Hesjedal’s pride in his son and as local coach David Smith greeted the returning champion.

Responding to questions about the demands of the Giro d’Italia, Hesjedal downplayed the difficulties, saying that although the Italian mountain stages were as challenging as any in the Grand Tours, he’s suffered more training in Victoria’s Highlands.

Now I can claim I have something in common with one of the world’s cycling greats!

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