MENDE, France (VN) — Tom Dumoulin (Sunweb), judging by the three-kilometer climb that ended the 14th stage of the Tour de France, predicts that Team Sky duo Geraint Thomas and Chris Froome could turn on each other in the coming mountain stages.
Thomas is the current leader of the race, currently 1:39 ahead of his own teammate and four-time Tour winner Chris Froome. Dutchman Dumoulin is behind the British duo in third, at 1:50.
“It’s difficult but they also are riding for their win,” Dumoulin said of Thomas and Froome.
He had a look at just how Team Sky could implode today on the climb to Mende’s airstrip. Primoz Roglic (LottoNL-Jumbo), fourth overall, attacked the group of favorites and once Dumoulin began to move, Froome and Thomas each had a go.
“I attacked first [after Roglic was free] then Thomas was in my wheel,” Dumoulin added. “Froome closed the gap and attacked, and it was Thomas again who closed the gap to Froome.”
They neutralized each other and arrived eight seconds behind Roglic. Behind, the other stars lost time.
Dumoulin became the first Dutchman to win the Giro d’Italia in 2017. He returned this May, but could not handle Froome and finished second to the grand tour star.
Now he insists that he is not just racing for another podium spot in a grand tour, even if it would be his highest finish ever in the Tour.
“There’s always hope and belief, when you stop doing that then you better not race at all,” Dumoulin said.
“I think we were pretty evenly matched today, like also in the Alps actually. We will see what that means in the Pyrenees.”
The race ends with a run through three Pyrenean stages in the country’s southwest and a time trial on the penultimate day. The final day in Paris is a celebration stage for sprinters.
Dumoulin, who is the world champion time trialist, wants to sort out the race in the mountains starting Tuesday.
Thomas and Froome each promised to help each other, but personal self-interests may bring out the worst case scenario for Team Sky. Thomas will want his first grand tour win while Froome aims for history with a record-equalling fifth title.
“The main thing is we win and don’t end up racing against each other and then Dumoulin wins. Then we’d look pretty stupid,” Thomas said.
“I can’t speak to anyone else, I’m sure [the team management would] be happy for either of us to win. For me, I’d be happier if I won than Froomey.”