Robert Gesink (Rabobank) has been added to the Dutch squad for the London 2012 Olympics after he decided that the road race circuit might prove more demanding than was originally thought.
Lars Boom, Sebastien Langeveld, Lieuwe Westra and Nike Terpstra had already been selected, with Westra and Terpstra also slated to ride the time trial.
With an average gradient of 5%, the 2.5km climb of Box Hill is the principal difficulty on the road course. Gesink likened the ascent to Amstel Gold Race’s Camerig and believes that it will take its toll on the peloton when tackled nine times. Mark Cavendish won a bunch sprint over a shorter distance at the Olympic test event last August, but Gesink is hopeful that it will be a different kind of race on July 28.
“I’m hearing more and more experts insist that it’s going to be a tough race,” Gesink told De Telegraaf. “The ascent of Box Hill is like the Camerig and if you go up that nine times, then the race will definitely be hard. That’s made me come back on my earlier decision [not to ride the Olympics.]”
Before the Olympic Games, Gesink lines up at the Tour de France with aspirations of a high overall finish, but he insisted that is able to perform strongly coming out of a grand tour.
“I think that I could be in good shape in London,” he said. “In recent years the best riders from the Tour have always animated the Clasica San Sebastian the following week.”
Gesink also pointed to his performance at Sunday’s Dutch national championships as proof of his willingness to ride in a support role if the situation arises. He worked for his Rabobank teammate Lars Boom in Kerkrade, although Boom ultimately had to settle for second place behind Niki Terpstra (Omega Pharma-QuickStep). Gesink came home in 6th place.
“I did the national championships and Lars Boom was better than me there,” Gesink said. “I had no problem in working for him.”
Meanwhile, Rabobank manager Adri van Houwelingen has downplayed expectations ahead of the Tour. Although Gesink is joined by Bauke Mollema and Steven Kruijswijk in the Rabobank line-up, van Houwelingen said that the surfeit of time trialling in this year’s route means that the team’s ambitions are limited.
“Modern cycling shows that there are bigger differences made in the time trials than in the mountains,” he said. “Even in the toughest mountain stages, it is often a matter of seconds. There are some better time trial specialists in the race and based on this Tour route, it’s not realistic to talk about finishing on the podium.
“A place in the top three is not our aim. We’re going there for stage wins and the best possible overall finish. We think Gesink and Mollema can be in the top ten.”