Several contenders for the podium in Paris lost time during the fourth stage of the Tour de France on Tuesday afternoon. Among them was Robert Gesink (Rabobank) who carries the hopes of Dutch cycling fans, and he now trails race leader Thor Hushovd (Garmin-Cervélo) by twenty seconds.
Speaking after the finish, the 25-year-old Dutchman admitted that he wasn't surprised by his concession of eight seconds on the short, steep climb at Mûr-de-Bretagne.
“I was delivered perfectly near the front of the group and Bauke [Mollema] even kept working a little for me on the climb,” Gesink said. “Nevertheless, the first riders rode a tempo that was a bit too high for me. I'm not the only rider in that situation. It's too short, too explosive and too based on power for me.
“Eight seconds is not the end of the world so I'm confident. I'm not super-satisfied but I'm pleased with the small loss of time.”
Gesink added that the circumstances of the stage weren't in his favour, although he pointed out that it wasn't an excuse for his performance on the day.
“It was a spicy day with all those small roads and the foul weather,” he said. “It was one of those days for which you're a little bit more nervous. At first there was full gas racing but once the breakaway group went up the road the pace dropped and it ended up being a slow stage. I hate those days and you don’t get any better as a result of it. But it's not an excuse because it's the same for everybody.”
Gesink’s Rabobank directeur sportif Erik Breukink was even more content than his rider at the finish, and explained that Rabobank had enjoyed a solid start to the race. Breukink didn’t believe that Tuesday’s finish was suited to Gesink, but felt that he did well to limit his losses.
“We're in a good position right now,” Breukink said. “In particular, surviving that first day without crashing was crucial and so too was doing a good team time trial. You could expect that Robert would lose something today and you just hoped that he was still dangling at the back of the group.”
Breukink warned that Wednesday’s stage to Cap Fréhel could be affected by the wind, but he was confident that it would not be a problem for Gesink and his Rabobank squad.
“Tomorrow's another weird stage along the coast in which you have to watch out that there are no echelons. Or the other way around because we're good at it,” Breukink said, hinting that Rabobank might be one the teams trying to rip the peloton apart during stage five.