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FLORENCE, Italy (VN) — Tom Dumoulin’s decision to ride the Giro d’Italia and defend his 2017 title next year “will be huge” for cycling, the Netherlands, and the Italian grand tour itself.
The Sunweb rider will race the Giro, according to newspaper La Gazzetta dello Sport, which is closely linked to race organizer RCS Sport, and Dutch newspaper De Telegraaf. The 27-year-old and his German WorldTour team will announce the decision at the team presentation Jan. 4 in Berlin.
“It’s huge for cycling in Holland after the last two years with Steven Kruijswijk, who almost won, and then this year with Dumoulin winning,” De Telegraaf journalist Raymond Kerckhoffs told VeloNews.
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“His return to the Giro will be huge, he won the sportsman of the year in Holland this week mostly due to his win and of course, the world title in the time trial.”
The 2018 Giro d’Italia starts in Jerusalem on May 4. Its starting lineup should include Chris Froome (Sky), Fabio Aru (UAE Emirates), Alejandro Valverde (Movistar), Esteban Chaves and Simon Yates (Orica-Scott), and Rohan Dennis (BMC Racing). Froome’s participation hinges on a salbutamol case.
“If you have Froome against Dumoulin, that would be spectacular for the Giro organizer,” added Kerckhoffs. “After the 2017 season with Dumoulin winning the Giro after a slow progression, everyone looked ahead to 2018, talking about the possible duel between Froome and Dumoulin in the 2018 Tour. Now, however, it’s going to happen at the Giro, assuming that everything is OK with Froome.”
Dumoulin could find the ideal battleground in Italy for a second grand tour title against the best in the business. The 2018 Giro includes two time trial stages — one at 9.7 kilometers in Jerusalem to start the race and another measuring 34.5km in the race’s third week.
The Tour de France, July 7-29, features a 35km team time trial in Cholet and a 31km individual TT.
Thanks to his time trial strength, Dumoulin positioned himself for the 2017 Giro win. He won the the 39.8km race against the clock in Montefalco and finished 1:24 faster than Nairo Quintana (Movistar) in the stage 21 time trial to Milan. Quintana, the winner of the 2014 Giro and 2016 Vuelta, placed second overall in the final standings at 31 seconds back.
“The course is better for him than the Tour, I think,” Kerckhoffs said. “The 2017 Giro was the first he started with ambitions for the GC, so he doesn’t have much experience in grand tours and maybe it’s better to get that at the Giro. And one of the nicest things is when you start with the No. 1 on your back.”
Dumoulin’s steady rise seemed to put him on course for the 2018 Tour, however. Dumoulin surprised everyone, including himself, when he nearly won the 2015 Vuelta a España. He only faltered on the last mountain day to the more experienced Aru and his Astana team. He devoted 2016 to stage wins, winning one in the Giro and two in the Tour. When he finally aimed at a grand tour overall, he succeed in the 2017 Giro.
The 2018 program, even if it’s Italian flavored, leaves insiders and experts baffled.
“In my eyes, I don’t understand the Giro decision. I think he’s ready for the Tour de France,” Kerckhoffs said. “When you go for the general in the Tour, that’s a process, you need time and experience at doing so. There is so much attention there and more pressure than you’ll find at the Giro or Vuelta.
“It’s correct that the parcours of the Giro is a little better for him with more time trial kilometers, but the pressure will be on him to win. Anything less than victory is defeat. If he was to race and place fourth in the Tour, that’s great and he learns from it.
“He said that he would be logical in his program decision,” Kerckhoffs added. “That if he sees more chances of winning the Giro, then he would race it instead of the Tour. And I guess that’s what he sees.”