Dutch rider Robert Gesink made his bid for Vuelta a Espana success today, throwing down the gauntlet when race leader Alejandro Valverde (Caisse d’Epargne) got into difficulty on the final climb of La Pandera. The tall Rabobank rider followed through after initial efforts by Ivan Basso (Liquigas) and then Cadel Evans (Silence Lotto), accelerating to the front and later dropping that duo.
Gesink continued alone to the summit but Valverde somehow managed to claw his way back on, then himself accelerate clear. He eked out a further four seconds’ lead, moving to 31 seconds ahead in the overall classification.
“I’m satisfied enough with the stage,” he said afterwards. “Everybody was attacking a little bit and, at a certain moment, I thought it was my chance to give it a go. I heard on the radio that Valverde was in trouble and then dropped, but unfortunately he came back to me. It keeps the status quo [of him in second overall].”
Gesink spoke to Cyclingnews immediately prior to the start of the stage. He said then that he was relatively satisfied with his showing on stage 13, even if Valverde beat him to the line. “I wanted to do maybe a little bit more but in the end it was really hard,” he stated. “Of course Valverde took the sprint and a few seconds, but I think I am satisfied about the general classification.”
Given that the Spaniard is expected to do a better time trial in Toledo, he said that he hoped to drop him on today’s final big summit finish of the race.
“It would be really great to get time,” he said. “I was strong on Friday, he was going well on Saturday. It is always like that in a big Tour, going well one day and maybe a little less another day. There is not that much difference between the top guys in the general, but you have to do what you can when someone has a bad day.”
While he didn’t manage to reduce his deficit on La Pandera, he can take two positives from the stage. One, he looks on course for his first ever Grand Tour podium finish. And two, he received strong support from Rabobank and knows that the Dutch squad will do what it can in the days ahead to try – somehow – to loosen Valverde’s grip on the Maillot Oro.
“We rode really well as the team. It was great to have Tankink in the front and waiting for me on the climb. It was excellent team-work,” he said.
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