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Dumoulin to plan 2016 season around Olympic time trial

The Dutch rider says his 2016 season will revolve around the time trial at the Olympics, not competing for GC in a grand tour.

ABU DHABI, United Arab Emirates (VN) — Dutchman Tom Dumoulin, despite nearly winning the Vuelta a España, would forgo racing for classification in a grand tour to try winning a gold medal in the Olympic time trial for his country in 2016.

He and team Giant-Alpecin will decide this winter what path Dumoulin will take to arrive to Rio de Janeiro for the Olympic time trial, scheduled for August 10 next summer. The path may not include leading the team in a grand tour, even if he performed well in the 2015 Vuelta.

“I am not sure [about racing for the classification at a grand tour] yet,” Dumoulin said. “It has to fit into my program for Rio. Rio is the main focus, for sure, you shouldn’t have too many goals.”

The 24-year-old began the Vuelta mostly noted for his time trial abilities. However, it became evident early that his climbing had improved drastically after finishing second in a stage behind Esteban Chaves of Orica-GreenEdge and winning a stage ahead of Sky’s Chris Froome.

Despite his newfound climbing legs, Dumoulin still motored to the time trial stage win in Burgos in the third week of the race. The win put him in the red leader’s jersey, which he only lost on the final mountain day.

Fabio Aru of Astana eventually cracked him, seeing him slip from first to sixth overall.

Instead of switching fully to grand tours, however, Dumoulin wants to keep his focus on Rio in 2016. In a sense, he is putting nation before team because at the Olympics, cyclists race in their home colors without their trade team sponsors’ markings on their clothes or bikes.

This has caused problems for some. Etixx-Quick-Step boss Patrick Lefevere said he did not want Mark Cavendish to skip normal races in order to focus on an event where he is wearing a British kit and riding a blacked-out bike.

“The team and sponsors are willing to work with me to be 100 percent at the Olympics,” Dumoulin explained.

“We haven’t talked about it, but I cannot imagine that they have other ideas. Of course, if someone gets a gold medal, me or whoever, you are Olympic champion for the rest of your life. That’s interesting for a team, it’s a big publicity thing.”

Dumoulin said Giant, which races with a German license, is not pressuring him to race for the overall in a grand tour.

“That’s not how it is so far,” he added. “We will have to speak about it this winter, but I can’t imagine that suddenly it will all change and suddenly the team goes with the flow. We just have to think clearly, and objectively about it, and we’ll make a good plan.”

Rival grand tour cyclists have already seen enough to believe Dumoulin should immediately give grand tours more attention.

“He already showed to be strong at the Vuelta,” Astana’s Vincenzo Nibali said of Dumoulin. “We don’t know how much more he can improve, but he’s already shown a lot. For sure, he can be a rival in the future.”

Alberto Contador of Tinkoff-Saxo, cycling’s most successful current grand tour rider, said the 2016 Giro d’Italia, presented Monday in Milan, and its three time trials adding up to nearly 60 kilometers would be perfect for Dumoulin.

“In the Vuelta he was very strong, incredible, even if his team wasn’t ready,” Contador said. “This Giro would be very good for him, there are two very good time trials, the first and also the second one. If he’s at the same level as the last Vuelta, then he has a big option to win.”

However, for now, Dumoulin says the only win that matters is the one in Rio.