Dutchman completes an emotional win

05/21/2012 12:00 AM

05/21/2012 6:49 AM

LOS ANGELES – Robert Gesink, a Dutchman who rides for the Rabobank team, won the Tour of California with a main-field finish Sunday, confirming his place at the top that he had earned by climbing fast up Mount Baldy on Saturday.

The win was emotional for the 25-year-old. He grew up on a farm and learned to love cycling from his father, Dick, who was killed in a mountain bike crash two years ago. Father and son loved coming to California, Gesink said.

Slovakia's Peter Sagan won his fifth stage of the eight-stage race Sunday, edging crowd favorite Tom Boonen of Belgium in the 42.6-mile road race from Beverly Hills to downtown Los Angeles.

Gesink's overall time of 30 hours, 42 minutes, 32 seconds was 46 seconds faster than four-time Tour of California runner-up Dave Zabriskie and 54 seconds better than Zabriskie's American teammate on Team Garmin-Barracuda, Tom Danielson.

This was the second time in the seven years of the race that a non-American has won America's largest stage race.

Zabriskie and Danielson had ambitions beyond winning the overall championship. They were also focused on proving themselves as appropriate selections for the U.S. Olympic cycling team that will be chosen by USA Cycling no later than June 18.

Five riders will be selected based on overall results from the past two years, and two of them will compete in both the road race and time trial.

Danielson made the case strongly for Zabriskie and more modestly for himself.

"Dave is the best time trialist in the world," Danielson said. "It's a no-brainer that you take him for the time trial. I hope to go for the road race."

Said Zabriskie: "I guess I'd say you take who you think is the best. It's pretty simple."

Zabriskie, a Utah native who lives in Los Angeles, won the time trial in Bakersfield on Thursday.

The Tour of California also marked the end of the 17-year career of Australian sprint specialist Robbie McEwen.

Gesink had won three big races in 2010 and felt he was peaking physically when his father crashed.

"He died two weeks later," Gesink said. "I grew up on a farm. My dad was a farmer and started cycling a few years before I did. He got me to ride a mountain bike, and I think it was a good background to be one of a family of farmers.

"You always had to work hard, which is one of the things you must do on the bike. I'm happy to think my dad was also always my biggest fan. He was here once, three years ago, and had the best time of his life visiting the big farmers."

Gesink, who finished fifth in the 2010 Tour de France, broke his leg in four places last September in a training accident.


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