Dutchman eighth on return to racing at Tour of Poland
Robert Gesink secured his first good result after heart surgery in April by finishing eighth overall at the Tour of Poland.
"This was my first race again so I was happy to be back again on a bike," the Belkin rider told Cyclingnews. "To build up to the Vuelta, it was also a good experience."
Thursday, on the Tour of Poland's fifth stage to Strbske Pleso (Slovakia), the Dutch rider showed himself at the front of a WorldTour event for the first time since the Santos Tour Down Under in January. He led the main peloton in chasing down Kanstantsin Siutsou (Team Sky) with 4km to go. "But I punctured earlier when the race exploded so I made efforts that I didn't want to do," Gesink said. The day after, he fought "beyond his expectations" on the hilly circuit of Bukowina and crossed the line in eighth position.
Gesink finish eighth overall at the Tour of Poland with a deficit of 1:41 to Rafal Majka (Tinkoff-Saxo).
"The good news is that I have no problem with my health," said the 29-year-old Gesink, who was fifth overall at the 2010 Tour de France.
Gesink underwent heart surgery in April because of an arrhythmia which began to occur in 2008. "According to the doctors, this disease affects one person out of 20 and is not dangerous," explained the Belkin rider. "The arrhythmia also doesn't occurs very often, about once a year. But I decided to undergo an ablation because, as a cyclist, it's never good in the head if you know something wrong can happen."
Gesink revealed the surgery was "less hard" than expected. However, in order to plan it and the break afterwards, he had to change his race calendar, skipping the Ardennes classics and the Tour de France. Prior to his operation, he had only performed this year at the Tour Down Under (sixth overall) and the Tour of Oman (seventh overall), then at two races which he didn't finish, Tirreno-Adriatico and Vuelta al Pais Vasco.
After a short recovery period, Gesink returned to competition on the Dutch national championships, at end of June, but this was too early, according to his team.
In July, he trained in Colorado and Utah. He managed to "combine training at altitude and a good time spent with [his] family" while he refused to follow La Grande Boucle on TV. "I belonged to the Tour and if I can't be there, it's not good to watch it," he says.
The Tour of Poland is his last race before the Vuelta a España, which will start on August 23 in Jerez De La Frontera.
Gesink has finished in the top ten on three occasions at the Tour of Spain (2008, 2009, and 2012).
"I don't know what to expect from the Vuelta this year," Gesink said. "Of course, I hope to do a good general classification. Even more importantly, for me it would be good to ride a race where I could look onto next year and say 'OK, I am back at a good level and I can work at a good level again'..."
Gesink admits the Tour de France will be his main goal in 2015.
The Dutch champion hasn't confirmed his team for next year. However, following a statement on August 2 where he said that he "expects to stay in the team", he spoke to Cyclingnews like as though he would be part of the Dutch squad – which will be re-named De Lotto.
Asked by Cyclingnews what Bauke Mollema's transfer to Trek Racing Factory might change for him, Gesink said: "My program won't really change, and we still will have a very strong team without him."
A member of the ex-Rabobank and now Belkin since 2006, Gesink has taken major victories at the Tour of Oman (2011), the Tour of California (2012) and Canadian Classics of the WorldTour, GP Montréal (2010) and GP Québec (2013).
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