Robert Gesink won the first stage race of his pro career on Sunday, taking the overall title in the Tour of Oman. The Rabobank rider won two consecutive stages to cement the victory, stage four's mountaintop finish and the penultimate stage time trial. His performance was impressive enough that none other than cycling legend Eddy Merckx said that the Dutchman could one day win the Tour de France.
“I rode strongly and wasn't in trouble all day,” he told the Telegraaf newspaper. “All in all a great victory.”
“I came to Oman to try something in those two stages. That I took the final victory makes its perfect,” Gesink said.
“With the team, we took four stages and the final win. This success creates a very good atmosphere on the team and takes the pressure off the riders. It is always important if you can win early in the season.”
Rabobank Sport Director Nico Verhoeven was in awe of his captain. “Robert has demonstrated this week that he is back stronger. I wonder sometimes where it will all end. He is getting better and more complete,” he said on the team's website.
Merckx, who was race director in Oman, called it, “A perfect performance. I did not expect to find Gesink in this form so early in the season. I think he has made another step up.
“In my view, Gesink is a candidate to win the Tour. And that will happen sooner than most people think. The Tour de France this year is tailored to him.”
The Dutch ProTeam dominated the race in Oman, winning four stages as well as the final title. Both Gesink and sprinter Theo Bos won two stages each.