He was already really good in the 2014 Vuelta, when he pulled out because his wife had complications during her pregnancy.Gesink could've been 5th even without that ill-timed mechanical if I remember correctly.
That performance indeed was tremendous and came a bit out of the blue.
Gesink gave Valverde a good run for his money at the 2009 Vuelta a Espana. Until his crash. Simply never was the same again after his broken leg and the psychological effects of all those crashes and mishaps.
Happy for him to be in the red jersey. That everyone seems to be happy about it kinda shows how cycling still is like a big family. With all pros and cons of a big family though. Cohesion and dark secrets.
Besides that crash his father dying in a mtb crash was also a big psychological blow to him.