Tour de France fans are fixated on Chris Froome after his cartwheeling stage 1 crash. They’re ruing Nairo Quintana’s awful luck, flatting right before the final three kilometers on day one. Tom Dumoulin, by contrast, is quietly positioned to challenge for the victory in his second-consecutive Grand Tour of the season.
And Dumoulin looks strong.
On Monday, Dunoulin’s Sunweb team finished fifth in the 35.5km team time trial, only 11 seconds behind winners BMC Racing. Sunweb, the reigning world time trial champions, ceded merely seven seconds to Froome’s Sky. This has Dumoulin in a sunny mood on a warm day in Cholet.
“We did an awesome job. I think the boys were amazing,” Dumoulin said after stage 3. “Actually last year at the team time trial, at the worlds, nobody really stood out like, ‘I’m the strongest’ and it was the same case today. It was exactly what you want. That’s what we did perfectly today, and really happy with this result.”
The result is important because it comes on the heels of two sketchy sprint finishes.
On stage 1, GC contenders Froome and Quintana, as well as Richie Porte (BMC Racing) lost time. Dumoulin did not.
There was a crash in the final corner of the stage 2 sprint. Dumoulin avoided that, no problem.
Sunweb’s sport director Luke Roberts couldn’t be happier with how the early days of the Tour have gone given how chaotic cycling’s biggest race can be.
“We intended to have a good first week here, we really wanted to make sure Tom was well looked after these first nine days, that we race aggressive that we’re up there and prefer to be gaining time instead of losing it,” Roberts told VeloNews Monday. “At the moment things are going our way, it can quickly change — it’s the Tour de France.”
Roberts isn’t too surprised by Dumoulin’s successful start to the race.
[related title=”More Tour de France news” align=”right” tag=”Tour-de-France”]
“I expected that Tom would handle the first week better than some of the other GC contenders,” Roberts said. “When we get to the mountains it’s still going to be an unknown for Tom coming off the back of the Giro.”
Dumoulin, winner of the 2017 Giro d’Italia, is coming off of a second-place finish at this year’s Italian grand tour behind Froome. Although the defending Tour champ Froome is accustomed to multiple grand tours in one season, having won the Tour and then the Vuelta a España last year, for Dumoulin, it is unknown territory.
“So far so good yeah,” Dumoulin said. “But you never know in the second half. I have no idea, I never did two grand tours. So far I’m feeling good.”
To manage this new challenge, Roberts says he is tempering the team’s expectations, as well as Dumoulin’s.
“I think we just have to keep our expectations within reason,” Roberts said. “We know that if Tom had a full-on assault on a GC. … This is unknown territory, so we just have to manage our expectations and also make sure Tom’s also prepared if things don’t go his way.”
So far, it seems the 27-year-old world time trial champion isn’t fazed by the big challenge.
“So far I’m super relaxed and the team is as well,” Dumoulin said. “We have three stages down. There’s lots and lots to come. We’re happy with how it went today and the last days. … So far it’s been working out really well.”
Dane Cash contributed to this report from Cholet, France.