MILAN (AFP) — Giro d’Italia leader Tom Dumoulin said he is determined to eclipse his embarrassing toilet mishap in stage 16 by becoming the first Dutch winner of the Giro’s pink jersey.
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“I’m not here to write history because I’m shitting in the bushes. I’m here to try and write history by winning the race in Milan,” Dumoulin said. On Wednesday he defended his 31-second lead over Colombia’s Nairo Quintana. Frenchman Pierre Rolland (Cannondale-Drapac) won the 17th stage.
In Tuesday’s queen stage to Bormio, television pictures of Dumoulin throwing his bike into the grass, ripping off his cycling shorts, and relieving himself by the side of the road went viral.
As well as leaving the Dutchman red-faced, it slashed his overnight lead of 2 minutes, 41 seconds to just 31 seconds. He battled valiantly over the formidable Stelvio climb into Bormio to keep the pink jersey.
On Wednesday, Dumoulin avoided a repeat during a much easier 219km ride from Tirano to Canazei in the scenic Dolomites. He maintained his lead on Quintana and a 1:12 cushion on Italy’s two-time winner Vincenzo Nibali (Bahrain-Merida).
He admitted he’d learned a valuable lesson about eating before and during the race. The Dutchman played down suggestions he will need to make alliances if he is to keep the double threat of Quintana and Nibali at bay.
Blaming a “combination of a few things” for his toilet trouble, he said: “We have to be focused when it comes to my food intake, then we’ll solve a lot of the problem.
“I needed to eat [energy] bars, of course, and food in the race. I was worried whether it would be okay, but it was completely fine.”
On Thursday’s stage 18, featuring four mountain passes, 40 kilometers of climbing, and an uphill finish that will tempt his rivals into attacking throughout, he can ill afford another setback. His rivals are desperate to make sure Dumoulin, who crushed the field with his stage 10 time trial victory, is well out of contention before Sunday’s 21st and final stage time trial from Monza to Milan.
Nibali, who lost 2:07 to Dumoulin on stage 10’s race against the clock, suggested an alliance with Quintana’s Movistar team could be key.
“When you’re racing, alliances can form, because we both have the same objective. Tom [Dumoulin] has a big advantage and he’s a victory contender for the final time trial,” said Nibali. “Nairo is sure to attack. We need to try something. If we don’t, we’ll regret it.”
But Dumoulin played down suggestions he could be forced to find friends in other teams willing to help his bid.
“I think at the moment, alliances happen naturally because if you see today, for example, Quick-Step and Team Lotto Jumbo started chasing with us, it was actually to save their own spot,” he said.
“If we have the same goal at a certain moment in the race, alliances happen naturally.”
He added: “We have to keep riding smart, and in the coming days we’ll try to do that. We have to be ready for everything.”