Rabobank suffered a blow to its GC hopes Friday at the Amgen Tour of California when persistent knee pain caused Laurens Ten Dam to abandon the stage to Big Bear before the second KOM about 40 miles into the race.
Ten Dam placed third during last year's stage to Mt. Baldy, which the riders will face again Saturday, and figured heavily into the team's plan to boost Robert Gesink into the race lead. Gesink is currently third overall, 39 seconds behind leader David Zabriske (Garmin-Barracuda).
Rabobank directeur sportif Adri Van Houwelingen said Ten Dam crashed during stage two, hitting his knee.
"[Ten Dam's knee pain] went up and down the previous days," Van Houwelingen. "Today it was too bad and he stopped. It may be more than one of eight that we lost today, because Laurens could have been really good in the final kilometers."
Gesink, who won California's Best Young Rider jersey in 2007, 2008 and 2009, rode into his current GC spot with a third-place finish at the stage 5 time trial in Bakersfield and is well-placed to leap into the lead on the steep slopes of Mt. Baldy. Now he'll have to do it without one of his main lieutenants in the mountains.
Luis Leon Sanchez, who recently won back-to-back stages in the Tour de Romandie will be available tomorrow, but Van Houwelingen said Gesink will have to grab the bull by the horns on Baldy if he wants to win the general classification.
"Today was a day to follow and not lose any time," Van Houwelingen said. "Tomorrow is a big day. I think the team was five riders in the front group today, so I think we will be able to bring [Gesink] in good position in the last kilometers. But in the final, Robert has to do it on his own, so we'll see what it brings."