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Giro d'Italia

Despite rocky start to season, Dumoulin relaxed ahead of Giro defense

Tom Dumoulin did not have an ideal build-up to his bid for a second straight pink jersey, but he says he was able to hit the reset button.

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JERUSALEM (VN) — Tom Dumoulin (Sunweb) says he is confident returning to the Giro d’Italia to defend his 2017 title against rivals like Sky’s Chris Froome.

The Dutchman won the race last year ahead of Nairo Quintana (Movistar) and Vincenzo Nibali (Bahrain-Merida). This year, he returns as defending champion and with Tour de France star Froome racing against him.

“What’s changed from last year? How people look at me has changed, how I look at myself hasn’t,” Dumoulin said.

“How people approach me in press conferences is already different. That has changed. People recognize me in the streets of the Netherlands now. In the beginning, that was strange. It’s calmed down now, and I have calmed down.”

Dumoulin won the long time trial last year, overcame a time loss due to an emergency diarrhea stop, and overtook Quintana on the final day.

“I know what is coming to me now, and that is good, or maybe bad. Last year, I was really open and new to it all,” Dumoulin continued.

“This year, I know a lot more, and I have more experience. I know how to deal with some situations and how I went through some difficult situations that I handled well last year. That gives me confidence. I know I am going to feel bad at one moment in the race. Everybody has that, and I know now that I can cope with that. That’s a good experience.”

Tom Dumoulin ahead of the Giro d’Italia. Photo: Tim De Waele/Getty Images

Dumoulin will need the confidence with four-time Tour de France champion Froome on the start line with rivals like Esteban Chaves (Mitchelton-Scott), Fabio Aru (UAE Team Emirates), and Thibaut Pinot (Groupama-FDJ).

“I expect a lot from Froome,” Dumoulin said. “I know that Chris Froome is going to be one of the main rivals, definitely, I expect a lot of challenges there.”

Froome has an ongoing anti-doping case from the 2017 Vuelta a España. He tested for double the allowed amount for asthma drug Salbutamol, and the case has yet to be heard at the anti-doping tribunal.

“It’s not good for cycling in general that it’s not solved before the Giro d’Italia,” Dumoulin said. “Everyone is uncertain. If he wins let’s say, what will happen if they find him [guilty]? Does he lose his Vuelta title from last year, and does he also lose the Giro title?

“There’s so much uncertainty and no one benefits it, also Chris Froome. He has the right to race here, that’s his choice to make. And it’s not up to me to think something.”

Froome is having to deal with the case in the background while Dumoulin comes to the Giro with a less than perfect build-up. He had mechanical problems, crashes, and abandoned races in the spring.

“I was too worried about getting results too early, and prove that I am not a one-day ‘fly’. That’s not a nice relaxed mindset. It did not work out in the spring,” Dumoulin said.

“Now, I am more relaxed, that gives me more confidence. It changed for me pretty much overnight. I crashed hard in Tirreno-Adriatico, went home and reset. You blame the bike, the mechanics, but if you do four bad races in a row, it cannot be about other people. You also have to ask yourself, what we are doing wrong?”

Dumoulin hopes to start the Giro d’Italia with a bang on Friday. The time trial world champion will have a chance to win the 9.7-kilometer TT around Jerusalem in his rainbow jersey.