Rabobank's Robert Gesink was a happy but focused rider at the finish of today's penultimate stage of the Tour de Suisse. After medical control, he chatted to some fans, signed some baseball caps and then got into a waiting team car to go and drive the course of tomorrow's time trial.
The 26.9 kilometre race against the clock will be a hugely important test for the 24-year-old. His ability is obvious, but if he can pull off the win, it will have considerable benefits for his confidence, morale and focus.
"I will try to do the best time trial of my life and then we will see what happens," he told Cyclingnews.
Gesink seized the race lead with a superb solo attack two days ago to La Punt. Since then he and his team have controlled the attacks from his rivals, particularly in the finale of today's lumpy stage to Liestal. He complemented his teammates this evening, saying that he was impressed by their defense of his yellow jersey.
"Today was really good. In fact, the first thing I must say is that the team was really good. Three of our guys were working from the beginning and in the final they were still there," he said. "They were all there and they all did their best. It is thanks to them I am still in the leader's jersey."
He will start last in tomorrow's TT and have the benefit of time checks. As things stand right now, Gesink is 29 seconds clear of Caisse d'Epargne rider Rigoberto Uran, 36 seconds ahead of Swiss favourite Steve Morabito (BMC Racing), and 38 seconds in front of stage two winner Frank Schleck (Saxo Bank). Joaquin Rodriguez (Katusha), Matteo Carrara (Vacansoleil) and Lance Armstrong are all between 42 and 55 seconds back, with Morabito and the latter being two of the riders he is most worried about.
However, Gesink is determined to hang on and reports that he is feeling very good at this point of the race. "I felt very strong today, I could answer a lot of the attacks," he said. "Hopefully tomorrow I will be as strong...maybe I just need a little bit more than today to make it."
His biggest wins to date have been Thursday's mountain leg, a stage of the Tour of California, the Giro dell'Emilia plus a stage of the Tour of Belgium. Nobody doubts that he will win the overall classification in major races; tomorrow's performance will determine if that happens sooner rather than later.