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Close-call Dumoulin falls short of podium

Dumoulin ends a season of second-places by missing out on worlds podium in four-up finale

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In a season of close calls, perhaps it was only destiny that Tom Dumoulin would finish off the podium in Sunday’s thrilling world championships in fourth place in a four-up sprint.

The Dutchman rode out of his skin to reconnect with the three leaders with just over one kilometer to go, but had nothing left when Spain’s Alejandro Valverde opened up the sprint with 300m remaining to take the win. Romain Bardet (France) and Michael Woods (Canada) completed the podium with Dumoulin coming fourth.

“I could not do anything more and I was completely spent,” Dumoulin told Dutch broadcaster NOS at the line. “I wanted to go early but Valverde was sharp and reacted right away, so I waited for the sprint. By then I was completely empty.”

The near-podium miss caps an extraordinary season of close calls for Dumoulin. He was second in both the Giro d’Italia and Tour de France as well as second in the world team time trial and individual time trial races. Just missing the podium ends what’s been an incredibly consistent season for Dumoulin capped by two time trial victories (one in the Giro and another in the Tour).

Dumoulin was impressive Sunday and picked his way up the final Höll climb on the grueling Innsbruck course. Woods, Bardet and Valverde bolted clear of Italy’s Gianni Moscon and others, but Dumoulin proved yet again it’s very difficult to drop him. He zig-zagged his way up the steepest ramps of the climb and then patiently reeled in the attacking trio on the descent coming into the final sprint.

Despite some reports that Dumoulin suffered a mechanical in the final sprint — there were suggestions his battery died and he could not change gears — there was no official confirmation that the Dutchman had a technical problem in the finale.

The usually outspoken Dumoulin did not mention a mechanical or battery problem at the finish line when speaking to Dutch TV.

Dumoulin was seen loosening his brake pads coming into the final kilometer, but riders often do that in order to avoid any risk of rubbing brake shoes after coming down a steep descent before a sprint finish.

Instead, it appears it was a question of legs following his hard effort to regain contact with the leading trio.

“I was fourth up the climb and I was fourth at the finish. That says it all,” Dumoulin said. “It’s a pity to miss the podium but I gave everything I had and I was completely empty.”