Tom Dumoulin admitted he had doubts about his ability to win the UCI Road World Championships elite men's individual time trial after already enjoying a hugely successful season. However, those doubts disappeared on the roads of Bergen with every kilometre he covered, and he went on to make history as the first Dutchman to pull on the world time trial champion's rainbow jersey.
Dumoulin was fastest on the rolling 27.6km first part of the course, with only Primoz Roglic (Slovenia) faster on the final 3.4km climb up to Mount Fløyen. He stopped the clock in a time of 44:41, a massive 57 seconds faster than Roglic and 1:21 faster than expected rival Chris Froome (Great Britain). Dumoulin started just a minute and a half after Froome and almost caught him before the finish.
His dominance was total, despite his doubts.
"In the last few weeks I didn't feel special and I didn't feel great. Mentally it was very difficult after such a great season to get in focus mode again and to have the stress with it," Dumoulin admitted in the post-race press conference, still proudly wearing his gold medal and rainbow jersey.
"Fortunately when I came here I was a happy man and felt good in the last few days. We got a surprise win on Sunday [in the team time trial with Team Sunweb] and so that was a big boost. Today I just had super legs. I knew I was on a super day."
Dumoulin lead Roglic by 42 seconds at the foot of the climb and that was more than enough to win at the summit.
"The time gaps surprised me because I took it very slowly on the corners due to the rain. I couldn't do anything on the corners of the climb because my wheel slipped. Fortunately, my super day was more than enough. It worked out, so maybe I shouldn't doubt myself."
Dumoulin confirmed he could see Froome ahead of him on the climb and wanted to catch him.
"Seeing him definitely gave me a good feeling. I wanted to catch him," he said, showing a glimpse of his true competitive spirit.
"Of course I also knew a rider like that doesn't suddenly get a bad moment, I knew he'd hold his pace. It was a little slower than nine but I couldn't catch him in the end."
No change to a road bike for the climb
After hinting he would change bikes and use his lightweight road bike for the twisting, steep 3.4km ascent to the finish on Mount Fløyen, Dumoulin, like Froome and many others, decided to stay on his time trial bike, preferring to avoid the risk of a bike change at the foot of the climb. He was convinced he could still climb well on his time trial bike.
"My team came here in late April to see the course and they said: 'Yeah, bike change.' I said: 'Okay if you say so.' Then the first day I climbed it for the first time, right off the plane and I wasn't so sure about that. I was unsure until yesterday and then I decided not to do it because I'm very comfortable on my time trial bike on the climbs.
"I lost time on the early corners of the climb but I still feeling strong and knew I was doing a good time."
Dumoulin is the first Dutchman to win the time trial title and also the first to win it and the Giro d'Italia in the same season. The Giro d'Italia victory confirmed him as a Grand Tour rider; the world title gives him the rainbow jersey which he will wear in time trials for the next 12 months.
"It means a lot to me because the time trial has always been my speciality," he explained.
"I won the time trial in the Nations Cup as an under-23 rider and I've always focused on time trials since then. I don't train very much for them, I don't do it the whole year, it comes naturally, especially on a course like this."
"I think as a time trial specialist this jersey is the most special thing you can achieve, along with gold in the Olympics. It's amazing to win it."
No two without three
With victory in the team time trial and now the individual time trial, Dumoulin has a chance of an incredible treble next Sunday in the elite men's road race. Nobody has ever won three world titles in one road race championships and but that possibility now lies in front of Dumoulin.
He will be one of the leaders of the Netherlands team but is not one of the big favourites. However, he is on a run of success and is determined to try his hand.
"I'm going to first try to enjoy this moment, that's also very important. But in the next days I'll focus on the road race," he confirmed.
"I'm starting, have good shape and so have a good chance. I'm not a favourite but I have a chance. I've always said I'm here for three events and that stays the same."