Victoria cyclist Ryder Hesjedal got a boost Saturday in his quest to be the first Canadian to win the Giro d'Italia — a surprise visit from his dad and best friend.
Leonard Hesjedal and Seamus McGrath flew to Milan to support the cyclist in the final leg of the prestigious race, a 30-kilometre individual time trial, on Sunday.
"Ryder's made Canadian history already at the Giro and he looks good to win this thing, so we thought we'd get over there, support him the best we can," said McGrath.
The 31-year-old is the favourite at the Giro d'Italia.
Leonard Hesjedal says he'll be cheering on his son Sunday from the side of the road.
"That's what I've always tried to give him is the support, a pat on the back, 'We're there for ya, keep it up,'" he said.
Growing the sport
Meanwhile, fans back in B.C. have been gathering at the Mussette Caffe in downtown Vancouver, a small bicycle-themed cafe, to cheer on the hometown hero.
"The place was packed [Saturday] morning, everybody cheering," said manager Dave Vukets. "There was some guys that had 'Go Ryder' shirts made up. It's pretty awesome. Cycling has been growing a lot in the past three years."
Cyclist Dan Gronross says it would be a huge feat for a Canadian cyclist to win the race.
"I think as Canadians we're a little doubtful of ourselves so seeing someone perform that level — and the guy is killing it — it kinda gives us collectively a boost so more people will get involved," he said.
He hopes Hesjedal can do for Canadian cycling what others have done for their sports.
"Look at what Lance Armstrong did for American road cycling," he said.
"I don't know necessarily if Ryder will have the same effect, but it will definitely grow the sport, and the sport has grown. The number of people out on road bikes has exploded."