PIANCAVALLO, Italy (VN) — The pink jersey was unraveling with every switchback for Tom Dumoulin (Sunweb) in Friday’s 19th stage in the Giro d’Italia.
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Just two days short of Milan, the 15.4km summit finale turned into Dumoulin’s Black Friday as he suffered through a deplorable day. First, he got caught out in a mid-race gap, and then was popped on the Cat. 1 final climb. A day after riding confidently to defend pink, and throwing barbs at his rivals, Dumoulin lost the Giro leader’s jersey to arch-rival Nairo Quintana (Movistar), slipping to second at 38 seconds back.
“I made a rookie mistake,” Dumoulin said. “If stay with them tomorrow, I still have a chance, but it will be very difficult.”
Just like that, Dumoulin’s Giro went from being a near-sure bet, to being one mountain too far from a breakout grand tour victory.
In what was eerily similar replay to the 2015 Vuelta a España, when Dumoulin cracked in the final mountain stage, his rivals isolated him and then attacked.
“I had bad legs from the start,” he said. “It could have been much worse today.”
Friday’s stage was broken into two parts: first, was mid-stage surge by Movistar and Bahrain-Merida that caught out Dumoulin and a handful of other GC favorites. And the second was the final climb. In both key moments, Dumoulin admitted he made mistakes.
“I made a rookie mistake from the beginning to sit in the back of the bunch when we went into the downhill,” he said. “With my bad legs, I needed to go to the max to come back on the climb in the middle of the stage, so that was already unnecessary.”
And Dumoulin made it very clear; his rivals did not attack him when he stopped for a pee break. He was simply rolling along at the back of the bunch.
“No, I didn’t stop for a pee,” Dumoulin clarified. “I was just at the back of the bunch. They split it. It was a smart move, and a rookie mistake from our side.”
Dumoulin said he woke up Friday morning feeling a little off. Once he was on the bike, he knew right away he didn’t have good legs. Dumoulin found friends when the bunch split over an unrated climb about 50km into the stage. A frenetic chase ensued, and Dumoulin regained contact ahead of a Cat. 2 climb at 104km, but he paid the price from the effort.
On the final climb, Movistar and Bahrain-Merida tightened the noose. Dumoulin popped about halfway up the climb, and looked to be managing the gap, especially with help from Simon Geschke. Accelerations came at the front from Thibaut Pinot (FDJ) and Domenico Pozzovivo (Ag2r La Mondiale) in the closing kilometers, and Dumoulin could only limit the bleeding.
“In the final, I tried to limit my losses,” he said. “The team was really strong today. They had to save me a couple of times. I really have to thank them. Otherwise, it would’ve been worse for me today. I just had bad legs.”
So is Dumoulin’s dream Giro over? He hopes not.
“If I have legs like I did today, I will lose more time tomorrow, and I will not be able to take more time back in the time trial,” he said. “It’s not for me to say I need one minute or whatever in the time trial. I just need to fight tomorrow, and then we’ll see.”