Before heading off to begin his final preparations for his Giro d'Italia defence, Tom Dumoulin (Sunweb) met with the press at Eindhoven airport, where he was blunt in taking the blame for his poor showing in the early season, which started with an unlucky Abu Dhabi Tour, and an unfinished Tirreno-Adriatico.
Before leaving for altitude training in the Sierra Nevada with teammates Sam Oomen and Louis Vervaeke, he says his spring "was bad, partly due to bad luck, partly because I wanted too much, I was not relaxed and did not ride with pleasure, I only had an eye for the result. I just trained too much in the winter," he said according to Limburger.nl.
There was also the pressure of being the Giro champion. "A good result gives you wings for a moment, but then also the expectations, of myself, of everyone, I am announced everywhere as Giro winner and I think I have to live up to that."
Plagued by mechanical issues in the Abu Dhabi Tour, Dumoulin admitted to losing his temper. "There was misery with the equipment every day and more than half of what happened was not even on TV. I was sick of it." So sick, in fact, that he threw his bike to the ground in disgust. "I should not have done that, you could see I was not myself."
Things didn't get better in Tirreno-Adriatico, where he started with a cold and then abandoned after crashing several times. That was rock bottom for him and he flew home.
"Then I spent three days at home quietly, worked in the garden and walked with the dog on the Sint-Pietersberg, followed by six hours of training with Bram Tankink and Laurens ten Dam in the Ardennes. We talked about everything, about my under-performance, the spring was a bit disappointing, but I just needed that kick in my ass."
Over the winter he also underwent tests to see what caused his intestinal problems, which were so prominent in last year's Stelvio stage at the Giro. It was not caused too little blood getting through to the intestines, or a reaction to the gels, as first thought. It appears to be a reaction to fructans, which are fructose molecules found in a variety of products, including wheat. That means eating "fewer products like bread and pasta," and by eating more rice and spelt, "I must be able to avoid the problems."
Tom Dumoulin admits that he has some concerns about the start of the Giro d'Italia in Jerusalem next month, but says it will not keep him from being at the start to defend his title in the race.
He said that the race start in Jerusalem is "tense, but not tense enough to avoid Israel and to skip the race. I can't say that I'm more afraid than riding on the Champs Elysées. Enough has happened in Paris in recent years."
"It is indeed uneasy in Israel, but that is especially in Gaza and not so much in Jerusalem," he said. "I think that sport and politics should remain separate, but that is not the case anymore because we start there. But I don't think I am the one who should do something out of it."