By Jean-François Quénet in Annemasse
At the end of the mountain stage of the Dauphiné, race leader Alejandro Valverde has designated Robert Gesink as his most impressive rival on the climbs. The young Dutchman who already impressed everybody during Paris-Nice when he took the yellow jersey at the top of the Mont Ventoux was a little bit frustrated at the stage finish in Annemasse. "There wasn't a high tempo on the climb," he noted. "A few times I could hear Levi Leipheimer saying that the landscape was beautiful. It means a few of us weren't racing flat out."
A stage win was out of question since a few riders from the 16 men breakaway were more than two minutes ahead of the group of the favorites when the race hit the grueling Mont Salève. It was interested to note that Rabobank gave a hand to Caisse d'Epargne earlier on. The Dutch team was committed to a good result by Gesink although the 22 year-old took a low profile before the start. "I'm not really sure of what I can do at the Dauphiné," he told Cyclingnews in Vienne. "I have to see how my form is. I took a break after Liège-Bastogne-Liège and started again with the Tour of Belgium. But here, my prologue was good, my time trial also."
This is Gesink's first racing experience in the French Alps. "I don't know most of these climbs, or only I rode them during training camps," he said. "GC at this Dauphiné is out of the picture already. We've all seen that three guys are the strongest [Valverde, Leipheimer and Cadel Evans - ed.]. I'm too far behind." He's now eighth with a 2'28" deficit, but his ambitions are far from over, and will peak on Saturday. "The stage to La Toussuire is important for me." He knows that his future is in the Alps.
Gesink is aware of the passion his compatriots have for l'Alpe d'Huez, although he will not go for it this year at the Tour de France. "My goals for now are the Olympics and the Vuelta," he announced. "The Vuelta will be my first Grand Tour. For the future, we have a strong couple of guys for the mountains of the Tour de France. I hope to be one of the Dutch riders to revive our legend at l'Alpe d'Huez in some time." Watch out for Gesink on this coming Saturday first.