Hesjedal withdraws from Giro d'Italia

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Hesjedal buries himself in the individual time trial (AAP Images)

Defending Giro d'Italia champion Ryder Hesjedal has withdrawn from the Italian Grand Tour due to illness.

I have tried my best to honor the number one bib number, the race, my team and fans and its devastating to leave this way.  Going home now is heartbreaking.

The Garmin-Sharp team announced that Hesjedal has withdrawn after suffering since the Stage 8 time trial.

The following day the Canadian struggled through the two final climbs on Stage 9, hopeful the rest day would provide a chance for recuperation.

That was not to be the case, with Hesjedal suffering again on Stage 10, unable to muster the power he needed on the first climb of the day. Hesjedal struggled to finish the stage and lost all chance of claiming his second Grand Tour title.

After being evaluated by team medical staff that evening, the next morning Hesjedal was determined to start Stage 11 with a new focus for the Garmin-Sharp squad on stage wins.

The team's new strategy paid off, with Ramunas Navardauskas claiming victory, but the conditions on yesterday's rainy, cold stage combined  with Hesjedal's deteriorating physical condition proved too much and the defending champion will not start Friday's 13th stage.

"It's heartbreaking," said Hesjedal. "I want to be here for my team and for all the people who have supported me to get me here to this point.

"I built my entire season around the Giro and I came here feeling great, but I have been suffering since the TT. We're working on it, but we're not sure what's wrong.  There's a virus that's been going around, so it could be that, or severe allergies, or going too deep on the TT combined with both  – whatever it is, I'm only getting worse.

"Yesterday's stage was just too much for me,  I fought to get through it and I know everyone suffered but after seeing the medical staff last night, I also know that its time for me to go home, get some tests done and get healthy again.

"I have tried my best to honor the number one bib number, the race, my team and fans and its devastating to leave this way.  Going home now is heartbreaking.  I'm very proud of the team – Ramunas' win proves that we all came here to race. These guys gave everything to help me. I couldn't ask for better teammates and I know that they'll continue to do great things here at the Giro for Garmin–Sharp. Now, I'll go home, focus on recovering,  and take things day by day, and I'll be cheering on the team from there."

Garmin-Sharp will now turn its attention to collecting stage wins.

"The team here continues to be very motivated," said team director Charly Wegelius. "We proved that on Stage 11 with Ramunas' win – and we will continue to fight for stage wins. There is plenty of racing still to be done and we know we we will animate the rest of the race."

SBS will broadcast daily Giro d'Italia highlights at 6:00pm on SBS 2, and will show eight key stages live on SBS 2 and online right here at Cycling Central.

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