MOUNT BALDY Dutchman Robert Gesink won the difficult seventh stage of the Tour of California on Saturday to take a 46-second lead in the overall standings into today's largely ceremonial final leg.
Gesink, the Rabobank rider who broke his right leg in a training accident last fall, pulled away from Colombia's Jhon Atapuma in the final-half mile to win the 78.3-mile leg from Ontario to Mount Baldy in 3 hours, 37 minutes, 8 seconds. Gesink was fifth in the 2010 Tour de France.
"This is amazing," Gesink said. "At the end of last season, I crashed and broke my leg. In January, I still had to learn how to walk.
"Now I'm back."
Atapuma, riding for Colombia-Coldeportes, was second in the same time.
Colombia teammate Fabio Duarte was third, 14 seconds back in the stage.
Dave Zabriskie, the Garmin-Barracuda rider from Salt Lake City, was second in the overall standings entering the final 46.2-mile stage from Beverly Hills to Los Angeles today.
Tom Danielson of Garmin-Barracuda and Lyme, Conn., was third overall, 54 seconds behind.
"I've been working really, really hard in the last few months," said Gesink, who won his first Tour of California stage in 2008. "It didn't always work out in the beginning, and that's difficult on an athlete, always wanting to win. Now to be back at the highest level is unbelievable."
Atapuma and defending race champion Chris Horner, the Radio-Shack Nissan rider from Bend, Ore., emerged from a lead pack of 17 riders after about 50 miles. The duo built about a 4-minute lead putting Horner, who began the day trailing by 2:50, in the virtual race lead.
But Horner, who won the race last year with his second-place finish in the same stage, faded in the waning miles and placed sixth, improving his standing from 22nd to eighth overall.
Zabriskie, a former Tour de France leader who had assumed the race lead after a dominating fifth stage time trial, likely will finish second in the race for the fourth time.