SUPER-BESSE, France (AFP) — Robert Gesink’s yellow jersey hopes suffered a blow as the Tour de France peloton completed the first of two consecutive days in the hilly Massif Central Saturday.
The Rabobank climbing ace came into the three-week epic hoping for a podium place following a sixth-place finish behind Alberto Contador in 2010.
However, a lower back injury suffered in a crash on Wednesday has left team bosses wondering whether he will last the race and pondering their strategy.
Gesink struggled to keep in contact as the peloton upped the pace during the 189km eighth stage from Aigurande to Super-Besse. Helped throughout the stage by teammates, he eventually finished 1:23 down on stage winner Alberto Rui Da Costa (Movistar) and 1:08 behind the rest of the GC challengers, led home by BMC’s Cadel Evans.
Having started the day 10th overall at just 20 seconds behind race leader Thor Hushovd (Garmin-Cervélo), a disappointed-looking Gesink is now 17th at 1:28.
“The Tour de France is hard enough, but when you have to race it with injuries it’s even tougher,” said the Dutchman. “When the peloton increased the pace I just couldn’t produce what was needed to hang on. I’m still in a lot of pain and am not racing with the level I’m used to.
“It’s not fun to ride the Tour de France like this.”
Gesink’s only consolation is that he did enough to keep the white jersey for the best young rider. He leads Estonian Rein Taaramae of Cofidis by 59 seconds.