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2011 Tour de France Preview: Top five riders to watch

Robert Gesink (Netherlands) Rabobank: 30-to-1

2010 Grand Prix Cycliste de Montreal, Robert Gesink. Photo: Casey B. Gibson | www.cbgphoto.com
Gesink scored a dramatic solo win at the 2010 Grand Prix Cycliste de Montreal. Photo: Casey B. Gibson | www.cbgphoto.com

Why he can win: Yet another rider who benefits from this year’s climber-favoring route around France, the wispy Gesink was born to go uphill on a bicycle. The still-maturing rider proved his mettle a year ago, finishing a surprising sixth at the Tour, and has continued that ascension with third-place finish at this year’s testing Tour of the Basque Country. Like Basso, Gesink has a solid shot at the Tour’s final podium.

What could trip him up: It remains to be seen whether this Dutchman can develop the multi-dimensional skill set required to win the Tour. He’s had some flashy recent time trial finishes, including a win at the Tour of Oman. But a Middle Eastern tune-up race in February is a long way from France in July. A year ago, Gesink was 109th in the final time trial. That’s to say nothing of the questions surrounding his ability to be a team leader, something the 25-year-old has yet to prove.