It’s still early days in 2022, but the Dutch star couldn’t nurture a slender headstart he had on the two-time Tour de France champion going into Wednesday’s fourth stage in what is the first significant uphill battle for Dumoulin against a world-class field in more than a year.
Twenty-four hours ago, Dumoulin was four seconds ahead of Pogačar on GC following Tuesday’s time trial, but he blew a gasket midway up the decisive, 19km summit finish that catapulted Pogačar into the race leader’s jersey.
Dumoulin lost more than 5 minutes, and tumbled from fourth to 43rd, now 5:10 behind Pogačar.
The deflated performance even caught Jumbo-Visma directors off-guard.
“This is quite a disappointment. We were confident that Tom would go with the best, but he didn’t have the legs today,” said Jumbo-Visma sport director Frans Maassen. “Especially after yesterday’s stage we didn’t see this coming.”
“Tomorrow we’ll go at it full force again and we hope to do better than today”, Maassen said in a team release.
🏁 7 km
— Team Jumbo-Visma cycling (@JumboVismaRoad) February 23, 2022
It’s easy to read too much into what happened Wednesday, but the stage did represent the first time Dumoulin went mano-a-mano against the likes of Pogačar since his 2021 season stop.
Dumoulin made his season debut at the UAE Tour after stepping away from cycling at the beginning of 2021 for what he said was a much-needed break from the stress and demands of racing.
The abrupt departure didn’t last too long, and Dumoulin returned to racing at the Tour de Suisse and later started the Benelux tour, two races where he saw plenty of climbing.
Wednesday’s climbing test, however, was the first time he faced off against the likes of Pogačar since the 2020 season in a WorldTour-level race environment with everything on the line.
After Dumoulin lost contact about midway up the steady but steep climb, Pogačar won the stage after going to the line with Adam Yates (Ineos Grenadiers) and Aleksandr Vlasov (Bora Hansgrohe).
Dumoulin is putting the Giro d’Italia at the center of 2022 season, with starts at Strade Bianche and the Volta a Catalunya next on his calendar.