Time trial specialists are usually perfectionists, creatures of habit.
The reigning world TT champion Tom Dumoulin might have found his normal routine out of order before Saturday’s stage 20 time trial at the Tour de France. That didn’t stop him from blazing the fastest time on the 31-kilometer course, averaging a shade over 45kph on the hilly route through French Basque country.
The day began with a misplaced skinsuit. It wasn’t any skinsuit either, it was the one with world champion’s rainbow bands for Dumoulin.
“It was a stressful morning for me and everyone. I was utterly pissed,” said Dumoulin on his reaction to finding out his skinsuit had been lost in the Tour de France shuffle.
Fortunately, given the stage’s proximity to Spain, Dumoulin’s Sunweb team was able to scramble and order a replacement that morning, before he started second to last in the order, just before yellow jersey-wearer Geraint Thomas (Sky), as he was sitting second overall.
“This morning we found out that we lost the skinsuit, so Exteondo, our sponsor, they’re from the Basque Country on the Spanish side and they made a new one — they were sewing it this morning!
“They actually called up a retired seamstress and made a new suit. They had nothing at the office, were at holidays, and they made a completely new suit and drove it here. It was a crazy morning.” Dumoulin said.
With his fresh skinsuit zipped up, Dumoulin embarked on the Tour’s final test, hoping to fend off Primoz Roglic (LottoNL-Jumbo), who had crept within 10 seconds of Dumoulin in the overall by winning stage 19. But once the race began, it was clear that the Dutchman didn’t have to worry about the third-placed challenger. Roglic faded to fourth overall, eighth on the day and more than a minute slower than Dumoulin.
Instead, Dumoulin was vying for his first stage win of this Tour de France, and it was a nailbiter.
“Ah that’s crazy! I didn’t know anything about the split times,” Dumoulin said. “I still thought Froome was one second ahead of me when I crossed the line.”
The splits were very close. At the first check, 13km in, he was two seconds slower than Sky’s Chris Froome. Nine kilometers later, before the steep Col de Pinodieta climb near the finish, Froome had kept his two-second advantage.
At the line, the TV broadcast momentarily showed Froome as the winner. The four-time Tour champion smiled in victory and then was told that actually, the initial timing was wrong.
Dumoulin had won the stage by just one second.
It was a fitting end to a day of surprises for Dumoulin.
“I first heard that I was second by one second but it’s the other way round and it’s crazy,” he added. “It’s hard to believe that I’ve won this time trial. But it’s fantastic to finish the Tour this way and make the final podium for the first time.”
Dumoulin’s second-place GC result comes on the heels of a second-place overall finish at the Giro d’Italia in May, behind Froome.
Though Froome didn’t win the day, he got a measure of consolation by taking third overall from Roglic.
“It’s unbelievable,” said Froome. “After yesterday [Friday], I thought it wouldn’t be possible. To be on the podium alongside Geraint [Thomas] is a dream.”