Although Robert Gesink (Rabobank) wouldn't claim to be a time trial specialist, the Dutchman was surprised and disappointed by his time in today's concluding stage of the Tour de Suisse. Over the course of the 26.9 kilometre test, he conceded a total of two minutes and 19 seconds to HTC-Columbia's Tony Martin, and also handed away over a minute to his main rivals.
The effects on his yellow jersey hopes were terminal; he dropped from first to fifth overall while Fränk Schleck (Saxo Bank) – who is also not known as a time trial rider – had the best TT showing of his career and scooped the win.
"I don't know why it went so bad today," Gesink told journalists after the stage. "In particular, the first part did not go well, the climb, but the second half went better. My focus was better for that part. I was quite stressed in the last couple of days because I was the leader."
Gesink certainly looked motivated, rising out of the pedals, driving his bike onwards and pulling agonised grimaces. However he suffered a bad day on the wrong day, and will be left ruing the missed chance to take his first ever ProTour stage race.
Fortunately he's able to put things in perspective. "Let's not forget that on the stage to La Punt, I left all the favourites for the Tour de France behind me, with the exception of Contador," he said. "Thursday's stage was fantastic, a super feeling. That is what I have to remember about this Tour, although for sure it is hard for me to think about it right now as I would have liked to have won the GC."
This year's Tour de Suisse was lumpy and stages like Saturday's featured climbs characteristic of those found in the Ardennes Classics. However it lacked the number of major mountain passes as seen in years past, with Thursday's stage being the only one that really played to Gesink's strengths.
His strong climbing ability will be more of an asset in the Tour de France, where there are several days in the high mountains and only one long time trial. Providing he shows the same sort of climbing form there, he should be in contention for a podium spot in the race.
Schleck's example today will also give him encouragement, as it shows that it is possible for climbers to improve in this area.