The 2010 season was the best on the bike for Robert Gesink of Rabobank, but a family tragedy ended his season early to overshadow his accomplishments. Now, some five weeks after his father's death, the 24-year-old is ready to return to cycling.
On Monday night Gesink was given the award as Dutch male cyclist of the year. "At the sporting level, this was my best season, the toughest private,'' he said, according to the ANP news agency. “And it will still difficult for a while.”
Gesink's father died at the end of October after a mountain bike crash. The young Dutchman flew home from the Tour of Lombardy, in which he was favoured to win, to be at his father's side after the accident.
"It was a terrible experience. I had hoped for a happy ending. My father was my biggest fan."
The season started out well for Gesink. He brought in a number of top ten finishes before his first win of the season, stage six of the Tour de Suisse. He attacked out of a group of favourites to overtake the remnants of the day's escape group and went on to a solo win on the mountain stage. It also put him into the leader's jersey, which he lost in the closing time trial, leaving him fifth overall.
From there he headed to the Tour de France, and finished it for the first time. His sixth place overall was the highest finish by a Dutch rider in more than 10 years.
Gesink's season then blossomed. He was seventh in the Clasica San Sebastian and third at the GP de Quebec, before moving back to the top of the podium. He won the GP de Montreal and the Giro dell'Emilia (for the second time), before having to rush home to his father's bedside.
Following his father's death, Gesink concentrated on his family and home, working on the farm and making various repairs. “I think I'm fine now, “ he said. “It is good to be here.”
His first public appearance was at the presentation of the Tour de France last month, and last week he did some wind tunnel testing in England. “It was the first time I was cycling again. I have done some riding, but you could not call it training. I am slowly starting to think about racing again.”
There is no question as to his motivation for the coming season. “I have promised my Dad to do even better next year. He would not have wanted it any other way.”