The Belkin team suffered a day of mixed fortunes on stage one of the Tour Down Under, with Robert Gesink finishing in the front group. However David Tanner was forced to quit the race after breaking his right collarbone.
The Australian crashed with just a kilometre to go, as the riders fought for position before the uphill sprint finish. Gesink finished tenth, behind stage winner and first race leader Simon Gerrans (Orica-GreenEdge) and is 11 seconds behind the Australian national champion in the general classification.
"The guys dropped off David and me perfectly for the final climb," Gesink said.
"Normally Jack Bobridge, who’s looking very strong, would have been up there as well, but he punctured at a bad time. Then David went down with 1km to go, which was a shock. Luckily I was still able to ride a strong final and post a good result. I took some seconds on some strong riders and that’s nice, because the Tour Down Under is often decided by seconds. It's a shame that David is now out of the race, because he was in a good shape."
Belkin directeur sportif Erik Dekker was gutted to loose Tanner on stage one. He was on form after working hard in Australia during the winter.
"It’s a big bummer because despite the fact that he normally would have ridden in service of Robert, there also were some chances for himself. On this finish, he was allowed to try something," he said.
"David has worked towards this race all winter long. He did very well at the Australian Championships with a tenth place. Cadel Evans even came to me this week and told me how impressed he was with David’s performance."
Dekker hopes Gesink can be at the front again on Wednesday’s second stage to Stirling.
"It's the stage that (overall winner) Tom-Jelte Slagter won last year. The final is quite difficult. The boys will support Robert as long as possible. We’ll do our utmost best to get another good result," he said.