Maglia rosa is Italian for pink jersey and is the award given to the cyclist with the lowest overall time in the Giro d'Italia bike race. Ryder won the jersey on May 12 and kept it for three days as his Garmin-Barracuda team did a stellar job of defending the title. Ryder is from Victoria, B.C. (a ferry ride away from me), and started his cycling career as a mountain bike racer who won a silver medal in 2001 at the Under 23 World Mountain Bike Championships - and another one at the Worlds in 2003.
In 2005 he switched to racing the road full time and has been on an upward trajectory ever since. In 2010 he was finally awarded 6th overall in the Tour de France after the disqualification and two year racing ban given to Alberto Contador for testing positive for clenbuterol.
Ryder's team planned this year to have him lead the team at the Giro and he is their best chance to win it in 2012. This year Ryder has not worked as hard for the early season races - he's planned one of his athletic peaks to coincide with the Giro and has a legitimate chance to do so.
Ryder's success will inspire a new generation of Canadian cyclists who sometimes have difficulty receiving recognition in our sporting culture that's dominated by hockey, ball sports, and curling. Good luck to him - and ride on Ryder!
Cycling teams will sometimes provide specially decorated bicycles to a rider who has a significant accomplishment. More photos of Ryder Hesjedal's black Cervelo R5CA with pink accents are available here.