Gesink: Vuelta stage win opened my eyes to new opportunities

Climber to target stages at Tour de France

Robert Gesink's mountain stage win at the Vuelta a Espana last year has helped shape his 2017 aims, with the 30-year-old set to shun GC obligations at the Tour de France and target more stage success.

Gesink has finished in the top 10 at the Tour de France on two occasions - in 2015 and 2010 - but LottoNL-Jumbo have given their most experienced leader the chance to target wins after his first Grand Tour stage win on the Col d'Aubsique last autumn.

"I've been top-10 twice in the Tour, and I've been top-10 three times in the Vuelta. If I do that again I more or less know what my place will be. But if I can win a stage in the Tour just once it would really change my life. It would be like a dream come true but in order to enhance my chances, I can't ride GC. I need to do my own thing," he told Cyclingnews.

The change in Gesink's mindset means that LottoNL-Jumbo will arrive at the Tour without a dedicated GC rider. Steven Kruijswijk is once again set to ride the Giro d'Italia, while Dylan Groenewegen will go head-to-head with the peloton's best sprinters at the Tour.

Gesink, who made the top 10 in his first Grand Tour, back in 2008, believes that if his stage ambitions are to be realised then he needs to give up riding GC.

"It's a logical thing, really. If you go to the Tour for GC then you need to bring a whole team. Last year they started the whole process with Dylan targeting sprints and for me that's perfect. I've wanted to try and go for stage wins for a number of years. I'm not sure that the parcours is perfect for it but we'll see."

Gesink's race season kicked off at the Tour Down Under, where he finished eighth overall after a strong ride on Willunga Hill. He will head to Abu Dhabi next before taking on Cataluyna, Tirreno-Adriatico, and the Tours of Romandie and California, before arriving at the Tour de France.

"There are a few changes to the schedule. I've done California before, but not in this sort of sequence. The objectives change from race to race. Some are preparation for the others and some are main goals.

"Tirreno is important, so too is Catalunya. California is a good warm-up for the Tour de France, with some altitude in between. And then at the Tour I try and ride for stage wins. That's how I raced the Vuelta last year, and I was pretty successful. I'd like to try that this year in the Tour. When it comes to GC, I'm not turning my back on it completely, but this year I'm not concentrating on it."

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