5. Ryder Hesjedal
Photo: Canada's Ryder Hesjedal rode his way to victory at the Giro de Italia. (AP)
Cycling has not had a good year in the news. Lance Armstrong, arguably the most famous name in cycling in several decades, was thoroughly disgraced. He has been stripped of his seven Tour de France victories, and his many, many accomplishments have been tarnished.
Canadians do have one feel-good story to cheer about, and it could make a generation of Canadian athletes hop on their bikes or at least pay attention to competitive cycling.
After making the switch from mountain biking to road cycling in 2009, B.C.'s Ryder Hesjedal had a breakout season this year that culminated in his winning the Giro d' Italia, one of cycling’s three biggest races. He did it in the most dramatic fashion. After weeks of racing up and down Italy’s mountains, Hesjedal gritted his teeth and would go on to win the 3,500-km race by a mere 16 seconds.
He was only the third non-Italian to win the notoriously difficult race in the past 15 years.
"I never thought 'I'm going to win,'" Hesjedal told the Canadian Press the day he won the race. "I was always just focused on having a good ride, and I knew that would put me up there. The day I pulled on the jersey for the first time, I knew I was good and could accomplish something great and that drove me harder."
The Toronto Star’s Cathal Kelly called it “among the most impressive individual accomplishments by a professional Canadian athlete. Ever.” He’s probably right.
And The Walrus Magazine’s Richard Poplak, who wrote the definitive profile of Hesjedal back in 2011, says that the Giro win could mark the beginning of the Hesjedal era. We for one can’t wait.
— Ron Nurwisah
What do you think of our Canadian News Winners? Who did we miss? Tell us in the comments and come back on Dec. 20th where we'll reveal our picks for News Losers of the year. Check out more Year In Review content on our dedicated page.