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Robert Gesink wins Amgen Tour of California

The 25-year-old Dutchman's time of 30 hours 42 minutes 32 seconds is 46 seconds faster than runner-up Dave Zabriskie. Peter Sagan wins the final stage of the eight-stage race.

May 20, 2012|By Diane Pucin
  • Robert Gesink's overall time of 30 hours 42 minutes 32 seconds was 46 seconds faster than Dave Zabriskie.
Robert Gesink's overall time of 30 hours 42 minutes 32 seconds was… (Jason Redmond / Associated…)

Robert Gesink, a Dutchman who rides for the Rabobank team, won the Amgen Tour of California on Sunday, confirming his place on top that he had earned by climbing fast up Mt. Baldy on Saturday.

The win was emotional for the 25-year-old, who 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.

Peter Sagan of Slovakia, who rides for the Italian-based Liquigas-Cannondale team, won his fifth stage of the eight-stage race Sunday, edging out crowd favorite Tom Boonen, the big Belgian sprint specialist who rides for the Omega Pharma-Quick-Step cycling team, for the win in the 42.6-mile road race between Beverly Hills and L.A. Live on Sunday.

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 only the second time in the seven years of the race that a non-American has won, but Gesink seems to feel at home in America's largest stage race. He had been the best young rider in the event three times.

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 last two years, and two of those five will compete in both the road race and time trial.

Danielson strongly made the case 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. We'll see."

"I guess I'd say you take who you think is the best," Zabriskie said. "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, who counted 12 stage wins at both the Tour de France and Giro d'Italia among his more than 200 victories.

Zabriskie tipped his hat to the 39-year-old at the post-race news conference and also handed him an adult beverage that McEwen was happy to taste.

For Gesink, the win was emotional. He recounted how he had won three big races in 2010 and thought he was reaching a physical peak when his father had the crash. "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 plans to visit additional big bike races, though, and not big farms.

diane.pucin@latimes.com

twitter.com/mepucin

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