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B.C.'s Ryder Hesjedal wins Giro d'Italia


Victoria's Ryder Hesjedal became the first Canadian to win a cycling Grand Tour event Sunday in Milan, overtaking overall leader Joaquin Rodriguez of Spain in the final stage to top the Giro d'Italia.

"I can't even describe it," Hesjedal said during a conference call after his Sunday victory. "It's just incredible. I'm just happy I could pull it off and give everyone something to cheer about."

The 31-year-old from B.C.'s capital made up 31 seconds on Rodriguez in the time trial to win the 21-stage event by 16 seconds, cementing his place in Canadian cycling history.

Prime Minister Stephen Harper congratulated Hesjedal, whose previous best finish was a sixth-place showing in the 2010 Tour de France, on his historic win.

"It is a particularly proud moment for Canada given that this is the first time in the history of professional cycling that a Canadian has won one of the sport's three grand tours," Harper said in a statement.

Premier Christy Clark, speaking at a press conference Sunday, also congratulated Hesjedal.

"I know this will go down as one of the greatest Canadian accomplishments ever in sports," she said.

Hesjedal's performance in the time trial, one of his strengths, became critical after he lost 14 seconds to Rodriguez in the penultimate stage Saturday.

Hesjedal is expected to ride in the Tour de France next month -- he could be too gassed to make a serious run at the title, though -- but he still doesn't know if he'll compete in the London Olympics.

The Canadian team going to London hasn't been announced yet. Hesjedal wouldn't say he was a lock for the team, but did admit his win in the Giro "can't hurt" his chances.