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BAGNI DI ROMAGNA, Italy (VN) — Tom Dumoulin has led grand tours before. This time he is more experienced and is better-prepared to win, says Team Sunweb.
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The Dutchman blasted into the lead in Tuesday’s time trial through the Sagrantino vineyards. He put 2:53 minutes into pre-race favorite Nairo Quintana (Movistar) to take the pink jersey by 2:23.
As the race entered Emilia Romagna, the northern regions, Dumoulin passed into an unknown. He has never before started a grand tour with the goal and preparation to win. It seems as though he his ready to defend the pink jersey.
“He’s more relaxed, more experienced, more used to the pressure, better prepared, meaning he knows the stages better and what he wants in the stages,” said coach and sports director Aike Visbeek.
Visbeek recalled the opening time trial of the Giro d’Italia last year. Dumoulin edged by Primoz Roglic (LottoNL-Jumbo) for the win in the Netherlands.
“I don’t have that impression that the pink jersey makes him nervous. If you win the time trial in front of the king in Holland, just by one second, then you got to be a cool guy.”
Dumoulin planned all winter for this Giro. The 2015 Vuelta a España came by chance. He and the team only began riding for the overall only midway through. He cracked and slid out of the lead only on the final mountain day under constant attacks from Fabio Aru and his Astana team.
In 2016, Dumoulin aimed for stage wins in grand tours and the Olympics. He won the Giro’s time trial and in the Tour, a time trial and summit finish stage in Andorra. In Rio de Janeiro, he claimed the silver medal behind Swiss Fabian Cancellara in the time trial.
The 26-year-old trained at altitude and worked on his climbing to be ready for the Giro, while trying to maintain his time trial strengths. He seemed to balance it correctly, losing only 24 seconds to super climber Quintana at Blockhaus and winning the time trial stage.
“He’s got it right this winter. He had a couple of springs were it didn’t work out good, but now he trained hard. He had a South African altitude camp in February — he came out of the winter well, and that for sure showed that in the results,” Visbeek continued.
“We need to stay calm, protect Tom, and the key is that he stays healthy. We still don’t know how he holds himself in the third week. That’s the mystery for everyone.
Dumoulin explained that this year the successful mix came via training camps, or more training and slightly less racing. He prepared for the Giro’s long climbs.
“I am still scared a lot can happen, because with one bad day you can lose minutes,” Dumoulin said. “Blockhaus was just one climb, but many stages with many climbs remain.”