Tour of California

Tour of California: Robert Gesink grabs yellow jersey on Mt. Baldy

Photo: courtesy
Jack Claassen

Photo: courtesy
Jack Claassen

American race likely to have second non-American winner after Gesink takes stage and overall lead

Robert Gesink (Rabobank) marked his return to good form with a sparkling performance on the steep summit finish on Mount Baldy.  The Dutchman took stage seven of the Tour of California in stylish fashion, grabbing the leader’s jersey from Dave Zabriskie (Garmin-Barracuda) in the process.

Gesink sprinted around a few bends in the finale, almost overcooking the final one, in a heated final battle with Jhon Atapuma (Colombia-Coldeportes).  Atapuma had attacked earlier in the day with Chris Horner (Radioshack-Nissan), who went with a bold attempt to pull back the two and a half minutes he lost in the time trial earlier in the week.  Horner eventually cracked, but Atapuma went ahead, and only succumbed to Gesink in the final kilometer.

Gesink was beyond pleased with his return to the upper echelon of the stage racing peloton.

“This is amazing,” he marveled at the finish.  “Last year I crashed and broke my right leg.  I had to re-learn how to walk, and now I’m back.  I’ve been working really hard for the last month.  To be back at the highest level at such a great race, to beat the best on this hill is unbelievable.”

Atapuma nearly took advantage of the final turn, which Gesink misjudged, but the Colombian came home second.  Atapuma’s team-mate Fabio Duarte was third.  Zabriskie was dropped early on the Baldy climb but rode sensibly, taking eleventh on the stage.

A short day, speaking in number of kilometers, was scheduled for the peloton on stage seven, but with three categorized summits and the final summit finish on Mount Baldy.  After a bit of a delay due to a car accident out on course, the peloton rolled away, and almost immediately, Jens Voigt (Radioshack-Nissan) was on the move.  Several others tried their luck with the German veteran, but the peloton wasn’t underestimating him, and all was soon back together.

Half way up the first climb, on Glendora Ridge Road, a very large selection moved off the front.  Radioshack-Nissan was represented with four riders – Horner, George Bennett, Gregory Rast, and Jens Voigt, UnitedHealthcare had Marc De Maar and Bradley White, and Ag2R-La Mondiale had Mickael Cherel and Maxime Bouet.  Tim Duggan (Liquigas-Cannondale), Atapuma, Alexandre Geniez (Argos-Shimano), Lucas Euser (Spidertech-C10), Chris Baldwin (Bissel), and Nathan Brown (Bontrager-Livestrong) joined them.

With no one in the move, Rabobank moved to the front to keep things in check, along with Garmin-Barracuda for Zabriskie.  The American’s team was certainly chipping in as well, allowing the move to go, but keeping it close.

Radioshack-Nissan understandably got on the front of the escape in support of Horner.  The Bend, Oregon native didn’t sit behind his team-mates for long, however, and he pushed on before really anyone could cover.  Atapuma was the only to grab hold, and before long, the gap to the peloton was over three and a half minutes.

Andrew Talansky (Garmin-Barracuda) began to suffer off the back, and up front, Horner became the virtual leader on the road.  Nearing the top of Glendora Mountain Road, the second of three categorized climbs, the bunch had cut 20 seconds into the lead of Horner and Atapuma.

Short of members after working throughout the week, Garmin-Barracuda received a much-needed injection of urgency from BMC Racing.  The tenth placed rider coming into the day, Lawson Craddock (Bontrager-Livestrong) was quickly dispatched.  The peloton pushed a high pace on roads that tilted upwards, and the gap was down to nearly two minutes with 20km to race.

Most of the early large breakaway was reeled in, but as the remaining stragglers dropped back, the gap to the leading duo continued tumbling.  Tejay Van Garderen had plenty of lieutenants reporting, and just two kilometers later, BMC Racing had shaved another 40 seconds off the gap to Horner and Atapuma.

Due primarily to the work of Brent Bookwalter (BMC Racing), Vincenzo Nibali (Liquigas-Cannondale) and then Jens Voigt (Radioshack-Nissan) began to suffer.  With the gap moving down toward a minute and Baldy approaching, Bookwalter gave a final acceleration to blow things apart.  He swung off, but the pace just slowed as a result, until Luis Leon Sanchez (Rabobank) began driving for Gesink.

Rory Sutherland (UnitedHealthcare) and Luke Durbridge (Orica-GreenEdge) were the next to pop, but amazingly, yesterday’s winner Sylvain Georges (Ag2R-La Mondiale) was still holding onto the select group of fifteen.  As the Baldy climb kicked up, Atapuma attacked Horner, but when the American pulled him back, Atapuma went again.

The fireworks then went off behind, and it was Gesink who lit the fuse.  Joe Dombrowski (Bontrager-Livestrong) kicked off what would be a career day, and was the first to cover Gesink.  With five kilometers to the top, Gesink kept the pressure on, and Tom Danielson (Garmin-Barracuda) accelerated toward the Dutchman.  He bridged quickly and looked at ease, forming a chasing duo riding third and fourth on the road.

Van Garderen was trying to keep the move in check, and had Dombrowski with him momentarily before the Bontrager-Livestrong rider went into the red.  In the next kilometer of steep uphill, Gesink dropped Danielson and caught Horner, then set his sights on Atapuma.  Behind, Van Garderen was cracking.  First Duarte came by, and the Colombian had soon caught several men ahead, forming a four-man group with Danielson, Dombrowski, and Horner.

Duarte kept the pressure up chasing Gesink, and first Danielson came unhitched, and then Horner.  Up front, and just under the 1km banner, Gesink finally reached Atapuma.  With everyone on the limit, the two shadowed each other into the final 500 meters, when the road leveled off before several hairpin turns leading to the line.

Into a right-hander, Atapuma took the inside line, and briefly looked to have the advantage.  But Gesink fought back and came around the Colombian, then took the final left-hander too wide.  Atapuma took a better line and opened his sprint, but Gesink’s lead was too big.

He raised his wispy arms in triumph, and cruised into the embrace of his waiting infant daughter.

Misschien ook interessant: