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Dumoulin ready to take on grand tour GC in 2017

DOHA, Qatar (VN) — Tom Dumoulin isn’t done focusing on time trials, but he is ready to take on a grand tour GC campaign.

That’s an important shift in thinking, and the 25-year-old Dutch rider, who’s emerged as a potential grand tour winner in the mold of Miguel Indurain or Bradley Wiggins, confirmed Wednesday his focus for 2017 will be overall classification in a grand tour.

“I still think I can do well in time trials, especially with the worlds in Bergen,” Dumoulin said of 2017 worlds course. “My main focus next year will be doing a grand tour for GC.”

Which one? That will depend on how the respective courses look as they are rolled out in the coming weeks. The 2017 Tour route will be unveiled later this month, with the Giro d’Italia and Vuelta a España to follow. The key factor would be which grand tour has a favorable time trial.

“We don’t know any courses yet, we will decide on which one I like and prefer,” he said. “I will choose the race that I like, not based on [obligation].”

That means if the Giro or Vuelta offer a more Dumoulin-friendly course, he’ll take on one of those over the Tour despite the obvious prestige and sponsor pressure that comes with the French grand tour.

In 2015, Dumoulin nearly won the Vuelta after a superb performance across three weeks of racing. Only a misstep in the final mountain stage (and a strong time trial by eventual winner Fabio Aru to keep his hopes alive) cost him a possible grand tour win.

The Netherlands hasn’t won a grand tour since 1980. No Dutchman has ever won the Giro and only two have won grand tours. Joop Zoetemelk won the 1980 Tour de France and the 1979 Vuelta a España, while Jan Janssen won the 1967 Vuelta and 1968 Tour. Close calls by Dumoulin and Steven Kruijswijk in the 2016 Giro, and a strong ride by Bauke Mollema in this summer’s Tour foster hopes.

Dumoulin could be taking a page from time trial specialists who have won the Tour, such as Indurain or Wiggins. Those two took big gains against the clock, and then had the climbing chops to defend.

On Wednesday last week, Dumoulin spoke out against the TUE controversy currently swirling around Wiggins, saying that if a rider needs a TUE, they shouldn’t be racing at all.

In Wednesday’s worlds time trial, he ran out of steam after a long season that also included the Tour and Rio de Janeiro Olympic Games.

“I didn’t come here in 11th place … Apparently the guys who were in top shape in the summer, around the Tour and Rio, they are not so great here,” Dumoulin said. “I was hoping to win. I knew my shape in the last few weeks was not so good anymore, but I’ve some good days, but it turned out to be a really bad one. When you [are not challenging] for the medals, then you suffer even more in the heat.

“It was a bit too much for me in the end,” he continued. “You can only know by trying. I was doubting about whether I should ride here, and I made a decision to try, but it didn’t work out. I have no regrets.”

After racing Sunday in the elite men’s road race, Dumoulin will cool his jets, and then refuel for 2017. The goal of upping the stakes to target a grand tour for the first time in his career will be plenty to keep him motivated.

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