Gesink will attack if the form is there

Dutch climber now closest challenger to Valverde

Second overall in the Vuelta a España after the 13th stage of the race, Rabobank's Robert Gesink is now shaping up to be Alejandro Valverde's main rival in the race. The 23-year-old Dutch climber moved up a place on Saturday when Cadel Evans (Silence Lotto) lost time due to a puncture and slow change.

"I was happy with the way it went," Gesink told reporters after the penultimate summit finish. "I was completely cooked in the final kilometres and was on my max. I saw the guys jumping but I decided to ride tempo, or at least make less jumps. I was happy with that.

"It is a pity about Cadel. It is a strange way to gain time, but that is the way it is."

Directeur sportif Erik Breukink agreed with that sentiment. "It is not nice to lose your place like that," he said to Cyclingnews. "He punctured and then the neutral service change took a lot of time. But I also think that he was not that strong in coming back. Anyway, for sure it was bad luck.

"For us, the stage went okay. Robert stayed in front, although he was at his limit. We had guys in the front group that could help him, so everything went okay. He is now second in the general classification, so it was a good day."

Gesink was stronger than Caisse d'Epargne's Valverde on Friday's stage to the Alto de Velefique when he surged clear close to the end and took back some time. However the Spaniard had the upper hand on Saturday and dropped him briefly when he went after Ezequiel Mosquera (Xacobeo Galicia). Valverde later clipped away at the end to easily nab the bonus seconds for third.

Everything boils down to La Pandera. If Gesink has the form he showed two days ago, he has a chance. Breukink said that his tactics will depend on how he is feeling.

"We will see how he has recovered," said Breukink. "Robert has to deal with his legs on the climbs - when he is feeling good, he will try. When he is not, he has to survive. That is the way it is.

"The gap is not so big between first and second, but then Robert has to have a very special day tomorrow, and Valverde a little bit less so. He has to try to take enough time to get in front. Valverde is a little bit stronger in time trials, but then Robert didn't lose that much in the other ones here. Anyway, we'll see tomorrow."

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