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Robert Gesink wins big battle up Mt Baldy
May 20th, 12. Over the final 4.5km of the mammoth Mt Baldy climb, Robert Gesink from Rabobank ruined the day of many at the Tour of California to take the stage win and the yellow jersey.
The victory is an incredible turnaround for Gesink who had to re-learn how to walk after breaking his leg late last year.
"I'm really happy, I still can't quite believe it, " he said after the stage.
The 25 year old from the Netherlands began the day in 3rd place 39sec behind David Zabriskie (Garmin Barracuda).
He sat in the peloton while defending champion Chris Horner and his RadioShack Nissan Trek teammates lit up the early part of today's Stage 7 with a strong breakaway challenge. Horner, who was 2m50s down after a poor time trial yesterday, took Jens Voigt and NZ's George Bennett up the road with him in a large breakaway bunch as they ascended the first big climb of the day.
With 43km to go in the 126km stage from Ontario to Mt Baldy, Bennett popped from the front group, as did Voigt 3km later. Horner watched for his opportunity and soon after launched off the front of the now small group. Only Juan Atapuma (Colombia - Coldeportes) could follow.
Horner pulled away from the peloton as he ticked off the kilometres up the incredible 40km climb. He moved into the virtual yellow jersey with a maximum time gap of 3m35s, but it was short lived. With half the climb to go, the peloton was back to 2m26s behind and Zabriskie returned as the leader on the road.
Leading the chasers was the powerful Luis Leon Sanchez (Rabobank). He helped lift the pace of the front group closer and closer to the two front riders but it was not until 4.5km to go that his leader made the winning move.
About the same time, Atapuma dropped Horner who by then knew his opportunity to steal the tour title was over.
Gesink, who won the Tour of Oman last year and placed 6th in the Tour de France the year before, bridged the gap to the American in 1.2km and set off on a double hunt - the tour lead and the stage win.
Behind him the field shattered.
Gesink caught Atapuma but the Colombian did not give up his own ambitions. In the race to the finish line, Gesink showed his experience and power to pull ahead and take the victory - despite almost crashing on the final corner.
Ahead of tomorrow's final stage - a 68.5km six time dash around a downtown Los Angeles circuit - Gesink holds a 46sec lead on Zabriskie and 54sec on Tom Danielson, also Garmin Barracuda.
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