The Dutchman is using the French stage race as a build up to the Tour de France, and featured in the early break on stage 2, Monday.
Although the move was pulled back by an attentive Ineos team in the final 35km, Dumoulin was amongst the last four remnants of a group that originally numbered 13 on a hilly leg through the Massif Central.
Dumoulin placed second overall in the 2018 Tour de France behind Geraint Thomas (Ineos). He crashed out of the Giro d’Italia on May 14. And with the knee injury he suffered still making its presence felt, he admits he may have to “adjust” his Tour plans.
“I still have some fluid in the knee and the cartilage is a bit damaged,” Dumoulin told Dutch broadcaster NOS ahead of the Dauphiné. “It was a big bone bruise.
“I was able to train really well last week, but I did notice it,” he added. “I noticed that I had more problems in the last hour than in the first hour. That’s not ideal.”
Dumoulin won the 2017 Giro d’Italia and, in 2018, placed second in both the Giro and the Tour. He began the Giro this May as a favorite to win, but a crash near the end of stage 4 derailed his plan. He abandoned before kilometer zero the next day.
He says that if the knee continues to trouble him in the Dauphiné, “it will be difficult to get to the Tour in good shape.”
He added: “I might have to adjust my ambitions. Two weeks ago I thought I would have no more doubts, but I have those doubts.”
The Critérium du Dauphiné includes a 26.1km time trial and, from Friday though the final stage Sunday, mountains. The parcours should suit Dumoulin, but he is taking a wait and see approach.
“If I find out after a few days in the Dauphiné that it causes too much pain, I can cause cartilage wear…” he said. “If I have too much pain after a few days, I’ll have to get off. But last week it went fine, I hope I can continue that way.”
Dumoulin is racing at the Dauphiné alongside Chris Froome (Ineos), Nairo Quintana (Movistar Team) and Romain Bardet (Ag2r La Mondiale). All also have ambitions at the Tour de France, which starts July 6 in Brussels.
Dumoulin said he would not consider himself a favorite for the Tour yet. “That seems a bit premature to to say,” he said. “That’s not how I feel at the moment. But I hope that it can change in the coming weeks.”
A week ago, Sunweb coach Hendrik Werner gave a rosier outlook for the team’s star rider.
“His form that he built up [ahead of the Giro] didn’t just disappear,” Werner said. “I would say right now that we can get to the Tour in good shape.
“But, if I were to write a guide about the ideal preparation for a grand tour, I would definitely have written this part differently.”