Team Rabobank's Robert Gesink enjoyed his first day in the yellow jersey at the Tour de Suisse, finishing in the bunch alongside all of the main contenders and thus preserving his buffer in the general classification. He ended the day as he started it: 29 seconds up on Rigoberto Uran (Caisse d'Epargne), 36 ahead of Steve Morabito (BMC Racing) and 38 up on his next rival, Frank Schleck (Saxo Bank).
Today was the second time Gesink rode in the yellow jersey in a major stage race. He held the lead for two stages in the 2008 Paris-Nice, but lost it and eventually finished fourth overall. This time round, he seemed content with his ride. "I had the leader's jersey in Paris-Nice but that didn't go so well," he said in a post-race press conference this evening. "This is the second time in my career that I am in a yellow jersey."
The day worked out well in that his team was able to place two riders in the breakaway. Oscar Freire and Tom Leezer went away in a 16-man break, so they could monitor the situation there. Behind, the rest of the team had to simply manage the gap and make sure it didn't grow too large.
"The day worked out well for us," said Gesink, who appeared relaxed and to have enjoyed his first day at the top of the leaderboard. "It took a while before the group got away, so before that it was not easy…there is always a lot of stress until the break gets established."
Perhaps the toughest part of the day for him was the weather. Today's stage saw heavy periods of rain plus cool temperatures, and this ratcheted up the discomfort levels for many.
"In the beginning, it was no problem but after 100 kilometres, it was really cold," he said. "The whole peloton was complaining about the cold and the bad conditions we were riding in. Luckily when we came on the lap, the weather improved and the roads were almost dry. So in the end the weather wasn't a problem any more.
"Anyway, I think a lot of my teammates were warm all day as, of course, they had to work really hard. In the end, I held on to the jersey."
The race continues tomorrow with the penultimate stage, a 172.4-kilometre race from Wetzikon to Liestal. As things stand now, Gesink has pinpointed his biggest challenger, but wants to wait until tomorrow evening before fully assessing his chances in the time trial.
"If I look at the results in the past, Armstrong is the most dangerous man for me for the overall," he said. "However, we still have to do the race tomorrow which is also quite difficult with 2,500 altitude metres. So we will be up and down the whole day."
However he said that he is not thinking of trying to gain some time. "The main goal will be to keep this situation going into the time trial, then see how it goes there," he said. "Of course, if there is a chance to take time tomorrow (Friday), I'll take it, but I think that will be really difficult. The main gaol for the next stage is to defend the jersey.