OK, so it was in a previous millennium and on a different type of bike. So what? Ryder Hesjedal, the new superstar in the sport of road cycling, raced in Squamish not once but twice — in 1996 and 1998, early days for Squamish’s now legendary mountain bike race the Test of Metal. So, sure, Squamoleans can lay at least a miniscule claim — one of those “George Washington slept here” sorts of claims. But hey, we knew him when… eh?
“I think the best he did was fourth in the Test,” Cliff Miller, Test of Metal race director, said in a statement issued on Monday (May 29), “so the Giro victory might go a long way to alleviating that painful reminder. Seriously, Ryder’s victory is huge for cycling in Canada.”
Indeed, the Victoria native’s victory is probably the biggest victory ever in Canadian road cycling. Hesjedal, who was a child of 15 when he first rode in the Test, became the toast of Italy and the entire cycling world with his gutsy, come-from-behind victory in the Giro d’Italia, a 21-stage race whose relentless schedule of days in the saddle punctuated punishing alpine climbs definitely separates the men from the boys.
But it’s not just Hesjedal’s victory we’re shouting about today. How about Brackendale’s own Brandi Heisterman? Last June, Heisterman finished an extremely respectable second behind eventual 2011 world champion Catharine Pendrel in the Test. Competing in the 40-kilometre Nimby Fifty race in Pemberton, Heisterman brought ’er home in front of even the world champ to win the $1,000 top prize among the women. Sure, Pendrel sustained two flat tires in the race — but that’s bike racing. Beating the world champ, fair and square, is a huge feather in anyone’s cap, no matter the circumstances. Congratulations.
And the two-wheeled excitement just keeps on coming. The Test, of course, is a mere two-plus weeks away. The fact that the race has hosted some of the best in North American cycling — including Pendrel and fellow Olympians Geoff Kabush, Seamus McGrath, Leslie Tomlinson and Alison Sydor — is something to be celebrated.
In September, after a number of other noteworthy mountain biking events in the Sea to Sky, the GranFondo will makes its third annual appearance on our highways and byways. While there are those who were disgruntled with the traffic hassles wrought by the first two, on balance it’s a positive thing for Squamish. In addition to the economic benefits, in some small way it connects our town to the world of road cycling of which Ryder Hesjedal is now a much greater part.
— David Burke