Ryder Hesjedal, winner of the 2012 Giro d’Italia, is the first cyclist to be given the prestigious Lionel Conacher award for best Canadian male athlete of the year. Sports writers throughout Canada voted him into top place in front of tennis player Milos Raonic.
Hesjedal (Garmin-Sharp), who in May became the first Canadian to win the Giro d’Italia, described the award as “an incredible honour.” His victory in the three week Italian stage race came down to the final time trial in which he came through to take the win from Spain’s Joaquin Rodriguez (Katusha Team) with a narrow 16-second lead.
Hesjedal’s national award comes after similar recognition for two other cyclists, Bradley Wiggins (BBC Sports Personality of the Year) and Tom Boonen (Belgian Sportsman of the Year).
Talking to the Canadian Press after his award, the Giro d’Italia champion said that, given the difficult time cycling is undergoing because of events in the past, “it’s even more crucial to recognize the achievements of now.”
He confirmed that he will attempt to defend his Giro crown in 2013.