Want to watch the Giro d’Italia? Stream all the stages on Fubo.tv for a special first-month introductory rate of $19.99. Subscribe now >>
EILAT, Israel (VN) — If that was Tom Dumoulin you saw riding a few laps around this seaside resort town after Sunday’s stage 3, you were right.
The defending Giro d’Italia champ was spinning out his legs and cooling himself down in more ways than one.
The Sunweb captain angrily criticized Sunday’s wind-blasted finale at the end of the 229km stage that was buffeted by strong desert winds and sand.
“That was the worst, most hazardous sprint I’ve ever done,” Dumoulin told reporters at the line. “It was really dangerous. I am glad I survived that one.”
If the peloton was hoping for a gentle jaunt through the Israeli desert Sunday, they were mistaken.
The final hour of racing turned into a high-speed gauntlet as high winds funneled down a narrow desert valley. Gusting winds kicked up desert sand and propelled the peloton up to 70kph into the closing kilometers. A string of round-abouts, speed bumps and rough roads made for a harrowing finale to three days of racing in Israel.
“I am glad it’s over,” Dumoulin said. “The desert? Boring. The first day was OK in Jerusalem, and it’s nice because I won the time trial. But the past two days haven’t been so nice. It was too dangerous. It was not safe anywhere in the peloton.”
Sunday’s finish-line nerves underscored some sketchy race conditions over the past few days in Israel. In Saturday’s opening road stage, fans ran alongside attacking riders on the King of the Mountains sprint, and others leaned in to take “selfies” in the high-speed dash to the finish line in Tel-Aviv.
On Sunday, there were more camels and goats than fans along the long stretch of barren roads as the stage pushed across the barren Negev Desert. Traffic signs warned of camel herds and tank crossings in the thin strip of land sandwiched between Egypt and Jordan.
“It was like the moon,” said FDJ’s Thibaut Pinot. “We just had to endure it.”
Other riders criticized course conditions in the last part of Sunday’s stage. There were a string of rough speed bumps that were treacherous as the pack swept in for the frenetic sprint in the beach resort packed with fans.
“It was stressful, very stressful,” said Rohan Dennis (BMC Racing), who defended pink. “It was a little bit scary, but I got through unscathed. With about 5km to go, I thought that I wouldn’t hold the jersey. It took a maximum effort to move up through the round-abouts to get to that headwind section. There was a narrow section and we got swarmed a bit. The bunch was going 60-70kph, and I was going 35kph.”
Riders seemed relieved to finish the Giro’s three-day Israeli adventure. The peloton will sleep in posh, five-star beach hotels overnight and fly early Monday morning to Italy. The Giro kicks back into gear Tuesday with the first of three stages on Sicily.