Ryder Hesjedal has left some skin on the pavement along the way but the Canadian is feeling good about his second Tour de France campaign.

Garmin-Slipstream teammate Bradley Wiggins is in third place overall and Hesjedal, enjoying a rest day Monday, is coming off a fine stage Sunday when he was part of the main breakaway group that wasn't caught until partway through the final climb.

"(Sunday) was a good day for myself and the team," the 28-year-old from Victoria told The Canadian Press from his hotel room. "I think we couldn't be more pleased with where we're sitting right now."

Hesjedal stands 57th overall, third among the nine Garmin-Slipstream riders. But he downplays his position. It's a team sport and the Garmin-Slipstream cyclists are united in backing Wiggins and Christian Vande Velde (12th place).

Wiggins is a British track star who is the current world track champion in the individual pursuit, team pursuit and madison. He left Beijing with gold medals in the individual and team pursuit and now is making his mark in elite road racing.

Vande Velde finished fourth in last year's Tour. But the American's preparation for this year's race was hampered by a bad crash in May in the Tour of Italy, which left him with a back injury, three fractured vertebrae and two fractured ribs.

Vande Velde has also had a rough ride in the Tour, crashing twice in one stage last week.

"There's still a number of hard stages (left) and he's known to get better as the race goes on," Hesjedal said of the American. "So we're still working towards (helping) both those guys."

The race has taken the toll on the six-foot-two, 159-pound Hesjedal, who's crashed three times.

"It never makes thing easy, that's for sure. But that's part of the game," he said. "There's lots of guys crashing out there. Fortunately I've been able to get up after each one and not have to withdraw or have any major injuries."

"Any time the body hits pavement, it's never a good thing," he added. "Skin on tarmac usually always loses - the elbows, and the hips and the knees always lose skin. And then it just depends on how fast you're going, how hard the impact is actually on the body.

"I just happened to land on the left side, the same way, all three times. So I was getting a little beat up. Mostly abrasions and bruising and that sort of stuff. Not a lot of padding on a skinny cyclist's frame."

Alberto Contador leads the overall classification, with a 97-second lead over Astana teammate Lance Armstrong. Wiggins is another nine seconds behind.

Hesjedal reckons the Spaniard will be hard to catch, especially with the strength of his team.

"The guy running second is willing to support the guy that's in first. That's a pretty deadly combo. He's looking good but we're thinking there's definitely possibilities for Brad to move up even one more spot. We're going to look towards that but we never stop believing.

"We think Brad has as good a chance as anybody of being on the top step at the end because anything can happen. We treat every day like a unique opportunity."

With the racing ending Sunday, Hesjedal can see the end in sight. He remembers it well from last year, when he finished 45th overall.

"Seeing the Eiffel Tower rise out of the horizon . . . getting onto the Champs-Elysees, I definitely know it's around the corner. So it'll be a fun week."

There will be little time for relaxation after the race for Hesjedal, however.

He's scheduled to compete in the one-day San Sebastian Classic in Spain six days after the Tour finale. Then it's off to the GP de Plouay, another one-day competition, in France and the Tour of Spain at the end of August. After that it's the world road championships in Switzerland at the end of September.

He doesn't expect to make it home to Victoria until after that.

Most Popular From ...