The Dutch Team Sunweb leader attacked Wednesday on the Col du Portet in the Pyrenees on stage 17, but could not shake Thomas or Primoz Roglic (LottoNL-Jumbo).
“I always keep faith and hope, but so far over the last weeks, Thomas has been proven the strongest and that’s the situation now,” Dumoulin said. “For me, it’s not possible to get time on him, that’s it.”
Thomas took the race lead after his second summit finish win on Alpe d’Huez last week. Dumoulin constantly remained a threat, but never close enough after losing time in the first week due to a puncture and time penalty for drafting.
Instead, he marked Thomas’s star teammate Chris Froome who sat nearby on the classification. The same Brit beat Dumoulin to second place when they both raced the Giro d’Italia last month.
Froome slipped back first at six kilometers out and lost ground at three kilometers remaining on the Col du Portet. Dumoulin rode clear with yellow jersey Thomas and fourth overall Primoz Roglic (LottoNL-Jumbo). Froome slipped behind and Dumoulin moved from third to second overall at 1:59 minutes behind Thomas.
“On the climb? I was thinking pain, that was pretty much it! No, but the first attack of Roglic, I saw that Froome was in difficulty, but I didn’t know if it was a bluff or not.
“I waited a bit for my own attack, but I didn’t have the legs to drop Thomas and Roglic, I was happy I could stay with Roglic; Thomas was just the strongest.”
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Dumoulin has another chance to take time on Thomas, stage 19 over the Tourmalet and Aubisque that descends to finish in Laruns. If he can get close enough, the world champion could challenge the Welsh race leader Saturday in the 31-kilometer time trial to Espelette.
“This was all I had, this was all we had today,” Dumoulin continued. “I can only be satisfied with that ride. I was hoping Thomas would crack, but no. Now, I just have to be happy with the fact that Froome cracked.”
He also challenged for the Giro d’Italia win in May. Froome upset the race, riding away to the race lead in stage 19, snatching the pink jersey from Simon Yates (Mitchelton-Scott). Dumoulin could not respond, but maintained second place one year after he won the 2017 race.
“I don’t [feel tired from the Giro], I’m still riding strong, so I’m happy with my Tour so far. I don’t know. It could be that Froome is. He also did last year’s Tour and Vuelta,” he continued.
“Of course, yeah, [Froome could also still win the Tour] but it’s going to be really difficult especially since his teammate is in yellow and he’s the strongest so far, it would be quite difficult. I don’t quickly see that happening, Froome winning the Tour, but like you see in the Giro, anything is possible in the last days, but I’m focusing on myself and not on Froome. I’m not here to make Froome lose the Tour, I’m here win it myself or do a podium.”