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Giro d'Italia

Once a GC favorite, Gesink now aims for top 10 in the Giro

Dutchman lost valuable time in stage 14 but sits 10th entering Thursday's mountain time trial

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MORI, Italy (VN) — Robert Gesink (Blanco) is racing to set his Giro d’Italia right after a rocky few days. The tall, blond Dutchman began with hopes of a podium, maybe even a win, just over two weeks ago in Naples. Now his goal is placing in the top 10.

“I had a really a bad day on the Jafferau climb [in stage 14] and after losing four minutes, I’d just settle on a top 10,” Gesink told VeloNews Wednesday. “To achieve that in all three grand tours would be something.”

Gesink boasts a Tour de France fifth place and two Vuelta a España sixth places in his palmarès. Ahead of today’s mountain time trial from Mori to Polsa above Lake Garda, he sits 10th at 7:24 behind Vincenzo Nibali (Astana).

He spoke of a podium finish while sitting with 2012 champion Ryder Hesjedal (Garmin-Sharp) and Bradley Wiggins (Sky) at the race start in Naples. Hesjedal and Wiggins have since abandoned and Gesink has suffered his own problems.

On the stage to Jafferau, Gesink lost time to his competitors and slipped behind by 4:16. Before that, he was within reach of third place with Rigoberto Urán (Sky).

Having already raced the Tour and Vuelta several times, Gesink finds the Giro difficult.

“The race has had spectacular stages every day. The only day that seemed normal was when Cavendish won [stage 6 in Margherita di Savoia],” Gesink said. “The rest of the days, the organizer always seems to find a climb to put in the final.”

Gesink took in the day’s sun, but looked up to see what was rolling in. He said if the weather forces the upcoming mountain stages to be canceled, he will have a hard time winning a stage. A top 10, though, remains on his radar.

Kelderman ‘learning a lot’

Blanco swings more of its might toward 22-year-old Wilco Kelderman. Last year, the young Dutchman debuted strongly in the professional ranks. He won the white jersey in the Critérium du Dauphiné and the Amgen Tour of California, placing eighth and seventh overall.

“Wilco is good,” Gesink said as Kelderman adjusted his helmet. “He doesn’t have to, but he listens to me. He tries to learn from my mistakes and has a lot of power. He’ll go far.”

Added Kelderman: “I’m learning a lot from him in my first grand tour. He’s already had a lot of top 10s in these races.”

Kelderman spoke quietly and in short phrases. On the bike, however, he is aggressive.

Blanco gave him free reign on stage 15 to Galibier and the following stage, after the rest day. He failed to win both, but he gained experience that will serve him well when he leads a grand tour team.

“There’s not a goal to reach a certain placing this year, it’s more to help Robert,” Kelderman said. “As the year goes on, I want to have more top 10s in races like the Tour de Romandie. Just to keep improving every year.”

An eye on the sky

Gesink looked over Kelderman’s shoulder to the horizon and the Alps. Over the next few days, the race heads upwards for its final test. Not only will Gesink try to secure his top-10 finish — Domenico Pozzovivo (Ag2r-La Mondiale) trails him by just 10 seconds — but he will also aim for a stage win.

“A stage win is within reach,” Gesink said. “I just have to hope snow does not force the stages to be canceled.”

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