Robert Gesink (Rabobank Cycling), who suffered from a severe broken leg last year, took the Stage 7 Mt. Baldy win and the Amgen Tour of California leader’s jersey. With his attack on the last 5 km, Gesink not only erased the 39 seconds needed, he also added 46 seconds going into the final stage in Los Angeles. Dave Zabriskie (Garmin-Barracuda) dropped to second in GC. Zabriskie’s team mate Tom Danielson sits in 3rd .
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Did anyone explain the Mt. Baldy course to you?
A few of my team mates rode it last year and explained it to me. I also saw the race on television, though you really can’t see how steep it is. I also viewed the stage on the internet. I knew it a bit…but still I was surprised by the last corner because I thought it was the finish. That is what happens when your heart beat is 200 and you can’t really see any more. I am happy to take the stage victory. I am really happy with the team effort. We saw Horner go in the break. You have to be a really big rider to make a race. What he did was incredible. We all had to chase all day. Everyone was suffering. I decided to go at 5K. I looked back and saw that the group was really small. It worked out great for us.
You had the crash last year. Does this victory give you some redemption?
In the beginning I could only ride my bike. I could not walk. Last two steps were the most difficult. I was racing earlier this year but the results were not there. It’s normal that after you break your leg…and I broke my leg in four places…and there are a lot of screws in it…but you want results. I am here and I am happy that it all came together, Here in America I have good memories. I have good memories of the Tour of California but I also come here on holiday. I like California.
Last turn you almost hit the barrier but hit a pocket of gravel…what happened?
I was surprised by that last corner. It wasn’t steep anymore and I had good speed. I did not slide.
Were you surprised to see Chris Horner go so early in a break?
Yes, we were actually surprised. We were riding hard. Garmin had their guys and we put two in and also BMC. The gap kept getting bigger and we were surprised that they were so strong. I knew the last climb was really steep and if you ride 100K that hard, it’s normally difficult to stay out in front. It was pretty close. Only in the last K was I able to catch up with this little guy (taps Atapuma Columbia-Coldeportes). Winning is great for me, my family and my dad.
When Atapuma passed you in the parking lot what was going through your mind?
I wasn’t really thinking because it was happening pretty fast. I just started to sprint again and it worked out for me.
Your time trialing is great as is your climbing…how much better can you get before the Tour de France?
I have been in California two weeks before the race. I have only been doing long training and altitude training in Lake Tahoe. I have not been doing high intensity workouts. I’ve been using Tour of California for this. After the Tour of California, I will be flying to Amsterdam and then directly to Spain to the Sierra Nevada. I will be doing another altitude training there with my team mate, Steven Kruijswijk. After that I will do the Tour de Suisee. We’ll see how much I can get better. It’s not possible to be 100% perfect. The year before I did a great Tour and went to California for a month. That combination of training and being on holiday has really worked out for me. That is why we did it again this year and it had again really worked out. I think I’ll be coming back to California before another important race.
Two team mates delivered you to the final kilometers….can you talk about the team effort?
It was a great team effort today. Everybody did maximum effort. In the beginning we tried to put some riders in the break but it wasn’t an easy start. They all came back. Tjallingii did what he could. He worked really hard and got bottles. Tankink is the mastermind of the team. He sets up the lines. The two guys Luis Leon (Sanchez) and Kelderman doing good pulls at the beginning of the climb until there was only a small group left and I could take off. Matthews has a good chance tomorrow…but of course that means he has to be Sagan and that is pretty difficult these days. I am very happy with the team and I’m really happy to do so good for Rabobank, of course. They are a big sponsor of the Amgen Tour of California and got a lot of people at the start and finish so I’m really happy to give something back for all the cheering as well.”
What are your ambitions in France?
As always I am going after the GC in France. It is the most important race in the world. It’s a crazy race. Last year a lot of guys crashed out in the first week. A lot of things can happen in that race. The Tour remains the most important race and I have been working hard on my time trialing. We’ll see what happens.
Who will be the main leader at the Tour de France?
We have a lot of strong guys. Luis Leon is strong. We have Mollema, who finished 4th in the Vuelta last year. We also have Kruijswijk who did the Giro and will get a chance to learn in his first Tour. We are all the same age. We talk to each other and will go into the Tour with an open vision. We are all professionals. There must be someone who will sacrifice themselves. It has to be done. After the Tour there will be the Vuelta. I will be doing the Vuelta.
Time trialing has improved…why have you improved so quickly?
Actually not really quickly because I’ve been doing all good time trials if you look back. Two years ago I did some time in a wind tunnel for the first time with some great success reducing the drag. And, this winter, we were there again. The team is always working on good materials, good clothing and best positioning. When you put a lot of energy into something it’s nice to see great results come out of it. Of course, it’s also a lot of hard work. I already took the time trial bike here in Tahoe…you have to ride the machine a lot to get better at it and that’s what I’ve done. It’s nice to see it works out and I was actually surprised I did so well in the time trials.
How difficult was the rehabilitation process?
Riding bike is easier because you have two legs; the right leg only needs to follow the left. Walking is a whole different thing because to put everything back together they had to go through some muscles and those muscles help get your hips balanced. You have to do a lot of exercise to get those muscles back. Of course, I had to build up from zero. My right leg had no muscle any more. I couldn’t even put it a centimeter from left to right. Now they look similar, but at the beginning of the season I had a small leg and a normal leg. It’s a lot of work to get two normal legs again. They say it can take up to a year until you can have two of the same legs again, both in strength and muscles. I’m still working on that.