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Lone Canadian, Hesjedal, Cycles Tour de France

His name could be no more apt than “Ryder.”

Ryder Hesjedal, a two-time Olympian, has been cycling since the age of 12 in his hometown of Victoria. He is currently riding in the world’s most prestigious cycling race, the Tour de France, for the second straight year. In 2008, he finished 45th overall.

Hesjedal is the lone representative from Canada in the 3,500 km event, the first Canadian to suit up since Ottawa’s Gord Fraser in 1997. He will navigate the 21 stages across France as a member of the Garmin-Slipstream team. He was named to its Tour team after finishing in 18th place at the 2009 Tour de Suisse – better than any of his teammates. (Garmin-Slipstream also features White Rock, B.C.’s Svein Tuft and Sussex, N.B.’s Christian Meier.)

Now one of Canada’s top road cyclists, the 28-year-old first started in another discipline: mountain biking. He joined the national team in 1996 and it didn’t take long for Hesjedal to reach medal form. In 1999 he captured a World Championship bronze in team relay. Then, in both 2001 and 2002 Hesjedal was a member of Canada’s world champion mountain biking relay team. One year later, he took silver in the cross country event.

At the Athens 2004 Olympic Games, Hesjedal was set to make a splash in mountain biking but a flat tire forced an early exit in the race.

In 2005, Hesjedal turned his attention to road cycling and turned professional. He is known for strengths in climbing (likely from his mountain biking experience) and in the time trial. In road, he competed in major competitions for Canada, finishing 22nd in time trial at the 2006 World Championships. That year also featured several top-20 finishes in major races, and a second-place mark in time trial at the Canadian Championships.

The Victoria cyclist had an Olympic breakthrough last summer in Beijing. In the time trial, Hesjedal finished 16th overall, Canada’s best-ever finish in the event.

Now he is after success at the Tour de France, which features the return of seven-time winner Lance Armstrong. In 2008, Hesjedal helped team leader Christian Vande Velde finish 4th overall. We’ll see what happens later this month in the final stages of this grinding ride through the peaks and valleys of France set to end on July 26. For more information, visit.