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Dumoulin’s grand tour hopes hinges on Giro’s time trials

TERME LUIGIANE, Italy (VN) — Tom Dumoulin (Sunweb) tells it exactly how he sees it for this Giro d’Italia: For a chance at winning the overall, the time trials matter more than the third week’s mountain stages.

Dumoulin blasted into the limelight in grand tours when he led and nearly won the 2015 Vuelta a España. Italian Fabio Aru (Astana) eventually overthrew the Dutchman in the final mountain stage.

That three-week Spanish run was by chance — this time, after a year off focused on other things that included the Olympics time trial, the 26-year-old prepared specifically for the overall classification. He and the team say Dumoulin’s chances hinge on the two big time trials, stages 10 and 21.

“I think my type of rider doesn’t win it in the third week in the mountains, but I can for sure lose it,” Dumoulin said. “I have to be able to stick together with the other GC riders in the mountains and then hit them in the time trials.”

Dumoulin has long raced for time trial victories. Last year, he took home the silver medal in the Rio de Janeiro Olympics behind the now retired Fabian Cancellara. Along the way, he improved as a climber.

He won the opening time trial stage in the Giro d’Italia last year and took the pink jersey. In the Tour de France, he won the summit finish in Arcalís, Andorra.

“I’ve accidentally being doing GC already in the Vuelta [2015], but this is the first time that I’m really doing it with my mind on it from the beginning,” he added.

“It’s the highlight of my season, or I hope that it’ll be! I’ve been training really well up to this and preparing myself as well as possible.”

Dumoulin sat relaxed on the top tube of his Giant bicycle, happy to talk and relaxed despite the weight on his shoulders. He said this Giro is not make or break for his future as a general classification cyclist.

“I won’t jump to conclusions after one serious attempt, but a top-10 [finish] would definitely confirm it,” he said. “It doesn’t happen overnight.”

Added Sunweb coach and sport director Aike Visbeek, “A top 10 would confirm you can do it, and we are aiming for a top five, which is realistically possible. He still has to have a good third week for that. It’s an unknown territory for us.”

Giant brought in men to help Dumoulin reach his goal. This year, Dumoulin will rely on Wilco Kelderman and Laurens Ten Dam.

“This is his first go at a grand tour, from the start with the focus to really make a top result,” Visbeek continued. “For the team, it’s really important for us, we have a good team here. We prepared the entire winter, we gave it our energy and investment — all in. A grand tour rider needs to do it a few times, so this is a start to handling that pressure. It won’t be one year, but a gradual build.”

Next week’s time trial through the Sagrantino wine-producing hills in Umbria will tell followers much about Dumoulin’s changes in the 2017 Giro. Dumoulin and Sunweb did their homework with a visit to the area, previewing the 39.8-kilometer course.

“I reconned the time trial after Tirreno-Adriatico,” Dumoulin said. “It’s hilly; it’s really nice; it’s something I really love. It’s not technical, it’s hilly, flat in the beginning and hilly afterwards, but not too much. It’ll suit some GC riders but some other GC riders will lose quite a lot of time.”

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