Time triallists are, by their nature, methodical beings, and Tom Dumoulin (Giant-Alpecin) saw no reason to break from his pre-established career plan even when his progression from rouleur to Grand Tour contender was suddenly fast-forwarded at last year’s Vuelta a España.
After leading the race into the final weekend before eventually placing sixth overall in Madrid, conventional thinking would now see Dumoulin designated to spend the coming seasons looking to replicate the feat by targeting high overall finishes in the Grand Tours.
With the Rio 2016 Olympics time trial at the back of his mind since the hilly parcours was first announced – and, seemingly, with an affinity for the De Coubertin ideal dating back to childhood – Dumoulin has opted to take the path less followed and rein in his aspirations over three weeks for at least one more year.
“I will be definitely Tom the Chrono Man in 2016 and not Tom the GC Man,” Dumoulin told reporters light-heartedly on the eve of the Tour of Oman, his first race of the new season.
“We will postpone that for one more year. It came so suddenly the Vuelta. It was a nice experience, it was very special. But I’m afraid to go with the flow and be the big GC man who always goes for GC. That was never the plan. When I started with this team we had a plan to make little steps and to be at the top level after six or seven years, and then compete at that top level.
“Why should we give it all away and go full on for GC now? I started thinking that it is not what I really want, so what I really want is to get this opportunity in an Olympics. Riding for GC is for later, for 2017.”
Dumoulin will make his Giro d’Italia debut this year and all eyes will be on the Dutchman during the opening time trial in Apeldoorn and perhaps even beyond. The punchy opening week, culminating with the time trial in Chianti country on stage 9 ought to suit his style of racing, but like the Vuelta, he insists that he will approach the corsa rosa without any long-term ambitions.
“If I’m still there in GC after stage 9 and the time trial, then obviously I won’t give it away but we’ll have to see what the shape will be,” said Dumoulin, though the fact that he will eschew an altitude training camp ahead of the Giro seems a firm indication that talk of Rio is not merely a decoy.
“We decided not to go to altitude before the Giro, which is a choice we made to focus this season on time trials rather than GC in Grand Tour,” said Dumoulin, who trained at Sierra Nevada before his crash-shortened Tour de France last year, and at Livigno ahead of the Vuelta.
“I’ll probably be going to altitude before Rio,” he said when asked why he wouldn’t be doing so before the Giro. “It would be very difficult, because I don’t want to be away from home the whole year and mentally my focus is on Rio. If I put too much focus on the Giro and make myself really tired there, it will affect me for the Olympics and that is not what I want.”
The articulate Dumoulin, so unflustered by the increased media attention that followed his Vuelta exploits, certainly gives the impression of being a rider with a very clear ideas. After mulling over the Rio or Grand Tours dilemma through the off-season, his solution was a considered blend of the rational and the emotional.
“Maybe some people think it’s stupid not to go for the GC in the Giro or whatever, but for me personally the Olympics were the biggest thing in my childhood, the highest thing you could achieve in sports,” he said. “So now I have that chance, to maybe get that medal, so I want to put everything else aside this year.”
Dumoulin lines up at the Tour of Oman this week with just five Giant-Alpecin teammates, a consequence of the team’s crash at its Calpe training camp last month, and without any particular aspirations for what is his first outing of the new campaign.
“It’s a good race for me normally, and I really hope to be competitive, but without stress," he said, adding: "It’s different to Paris-Nice. I can tell you now I’ll go for GC there, and with a little pressure too, but that is not the plan for here.”