LES HERBIERS, France (VN) — With everyone talking about Andy Schleck and Alberto Contador, Robert Gesink is just fine hanging on the edges of the limelight.
Back for his third Tour de France start, the Dutch climber could well be the surprise of this year’s Tour. Gesink doesn’t mind at all, however, that all the media attention is directed toward the Contador-Schleck clash.
“It’s perfect for me like this,” Gesink said. “You (media) guys all talk about Alberto and Andy. All I know is that we have a really strong team, which can go well on the uphill stages as well as the flats. That’s one of our main strengths that our team is so strong. We come with one idea for the GC.”
Just how far Gesink can climb will be one of the most interesting stories in this year’s Tour. He rode to sixth overall last year just in his second Tour start. After a solid spring and quiet preparation for the Tour, Gesink could well be the rider who could challenge to break the Contador-Schleck stranglehold on the Tour GC battle.
“We start this Tour with the idea of doing a good GC,” Gesink said. “I would like to do better than last year, when I was sixth. I hope I can do that. The podium? Of course, that’s the goal, but the next three weeks will have something to say about that.”
Gesink will be surrounded by perhaps Rabobank’s strongest and deepest team ever. Sprinter Oscar Freire was left home after being dogged by health problems, meaning that the squad comes with the singular goal of riding for Gesink. Spanish riders Carlos Barredo, Luis Leon Sanchez and Juanma Garate will provide heft in the mountains while the remainder of the team can help him on the flats. Lars Boom and Sanchez will have some freedom to ride for stage victories in breakaways in transition stages, but otherwise, it’s all for Gesink.
“The first days are important, because every day in the Tour can be important,” Gesink said. “We have a good team for the TTT. We rode the parcours twice yesterday and we passed Saxo Bank twice, so the mental games are already starting. It’s the part of the Tour where I really rely on my team. I have good guys who can help me in those days. It’s in the mountains when the Tour really starts, but you can still have problems at any moment. You have to stay focused and avoid those things.”
Gesink is more mature and more experienced as he rolls into the 2011 Tour. Whether he can handle the pressure on the steeps will be answered over the next three weeks. The yellow jersey remains the ultimate goal, but the white jersey of the best young
“The goal is the yellow jersey and the white jersey is the second present you get,” he said. “It’s my last year for the white jersey, but the GC is the most important. I will try to do as big as GC as possible. It’s difficult to put a number on it, but we will see what will happen in the finish.”