CASTIONE DELLA PRESOLANA, Italy (VN) — One word, one name rattled around the walls in Movistar’s Giro d’Italia hotel Monday in the Alpine foothills above Bergamo.
Dumoulin (Sunweb) leads Movistar’s ace and pre-race favorite Nairo Quintana by 2:41 with six days remaining in the Italian grand tour.
“He’s managed the hard and difficult climbs. He’s regular and consistent,” Quintana said.
“I’m surprised that he’s improved so much and he’s better than I thought he’d be. He’s much better than before.”
A seemingly upbeat Quintana sat in a room packed with around 40 journalists and alongside his team boss Eusebio Unzué. He tried to answer how he will conquer the deficit he faces and gain time on Dumoulin before the Giro time trials from Monza to Milan on the final day.
The 29.3-kilometer time trial suits Dumoulin, who rocketed past Quintana in the last time trial and gained 2:53. However, the Dutchman has yet to win a grand tour. The 2015 Vuelta a Espana was his first serious attempt but he cracked on the final mountain day.
Quintana, who won the 2014 Giro d’Italia and the 2016 Vuelta a España, lives in Cómbita, Colombia, in the East Andes at 2,825 meters above sea level. In his favor, the Giro climbs several passes at or above 2,000 meters on Tuesday and Thursday.
“It’s normal that my body gets better in the third week. The high altitude passes go well for me,” said Quintana.
“Dumoulin is regular and can maintain it well, but I’m good on the high climbs when we are there at 2,000 meters.”
The Colombian several times said that Dumoulin impressed him and admitted he sees little weakness in his Dutch rival.
“It’s a complicated situation for me now,” continued Quintana. “It’s not gone how we hoped, but we always keep faith. I have five days that are favorable for me more than the others. We also have a big team to deliver the goods.”
Experts say Quintana can only be safe with two minutes ahead of Dumoulin ahead of the final Monza to Milan time trial. The Colombian said he can get by with 30 to 40 seconds.
Much more will be understood when the race covers the Stelvio climb twice Tuesday and finishes with a descent to the ski resort town of Bormio. From Bormio, it continues on a similar path through the mountains. It coves four passes high in the Dolomites Thursday to reach Ortisei.
“We’ve only been over a third of the mountains in this Giro,” Unzué added. “Tomorrow, we are looking at 4,000 meters or so of climbing. Maybe Dumoulin will fall apart, but he’s made big steps so far and in the time trials, he’s flying. He’s defending well.”