Robert Gesink (LottoNL-Jumbo) finally appears to be back on track for a top result in the Tour de France after years of struggling to live up to his fourth place overall in 2010. After a tumultuous first week of the Tour de France, the "condor from Varsseveld" ranks 13th in the general classification after a good time trial and a strong performance on the cobbles and the Mur de Huy.
The Dutch rider has had a rocky relationship with the Tour de France since his near miss of the podium in 2010; he crashed on stage 5 in 2011 and finished well out of contention. He recovered from a severe leg break at the end of 2011 to return to the Tour in 2012, only to crash out on stage 6. In 2013 he was 26th after targeting the Giro d'Italia, and last year was diagnosed with heart rhythm problems that required surgery.
Gesink appears to have put all that behind him, and now eyes Saturday's stage to the Mûr de Bretagne, a 2km ascent that could be another test for the climbers in this Tour de France. Back in 2011, Gesink finished 16th on the climb, but he doesn't think it will make a big shake-up in the race this year.
“The Mur de Bretagne is another spectacular moment," he said. "In a way it’s important, but on the other hand it’s unimportant because it’s not a real col. It’s another checkpoint for which you have to be ready, just like every other day. I did it once before when Evans won. I’ll take a look at it tonight. It’s not to be compared with Huy.
“The mission is simple: going as fast as you can to the top and hoping that the others can’t do it that well," Gesink said. "That’s how you ride a general classification, it’s not all that spectacular,” Gesink said. “In this field one can hope to get the win but it’s not what I expect. I just hope to ride top 10 in Paris. Anything that lays in between I grab along.”
On Sunday, the LottoNL-Jumbo team will face the 28km team time trial from Vannes to Plumelec, and they seem ready for a good performance in the feared discipline. Before the race,Wilco Kelderman was one of the team’s dedicated leaders together with Gesink, but he hurt his back in a crash during stage 2 to Neeltje Jans. However, Gesink hopes that other teams will suffer more, especially those who have lost their time trial powerhouses like Tony Martin (Etixx-Quickstep), Tom Dumoulin (Giant-Alpecin) and Fabian Cancellara (Trek).
“I hope Wilco is recovering well because he’s a very important part of our team," Gesink said. "He’s super strong. We’ve seen the 15km time trial in Utrecht and we were all super. We can have the ambition of clocking a good time. Everybody has to be healthy of course, but that’s the same for every team. QuickStep lost their big engine, same for Giant, Trek. There are many teams who are more severely wounded than us.
"Wilco went down in a hard crash. He’s pushing through hard times because he was in a lot of pain. I’m glad that the weather is good because it’s not easy to continue if it’s raining day after day. Now he can recover and hopefully show nice things and be an important factor in the team time trial.”
Gesink didn’t know what to expect from the team time trial, but he had high hopes that he would gain time over some of his rivals.
“Astana, Movistar, BMC still have their teams on the rails, but they’ve worked a lot during the previous stages so they might be tired," he said. "Before this Tour de France nobody would’ve noted LottoNL-Jumbo down as a possible winner of the team time trial. We’re very motivated to do well in it. It’s really a topic in our team. We will try to gain time on my rivals.”