Tom Dumoulin's disappointment and anger was easy to see as he pulled on the pink jersey on the podium in Bormio after stage 16 but even a few minutes later, as he talked to the media in the mixed zone, he managed to eventually find a smile, indicating that his body and his spirit are not broken and that his chances of winning the Giro d'Italia are not over.
The Team Sunweb leader started the queen stage over the Stelvio with a lead of 2:41 on Nairo Quintana (Movistar), 3:21 on Thibaut Pinot (FDJ) and 3:40 on Vincenzo Nibali (Bahrain-Merida). He lost 2:18 to stage winner Nibali after being forced to make a sudden toilet stop at the side of the road before the final climb of the Umbrailpass.
Dumoulin seemed on the ropes as he tried to reel in his rivals, but they were unable to land a knockout punch. He bravely fought all the way to Bormio, limiting his losses on the high and steep climb and on the descent, and so managing to hang on to his pink jersey. It was a show of pride and defiance.
Of course, the Giro d'Italia is now wide open again. Dumoulin leads Quintana by a slim 31 seconds, while Nibali moved up to third overall at 1:12.
"I'll need some to recover from this," Dumoulin admitted before indicating he would fight on in the remaining mountain stages.
"Do I have another option? So yes," he said cracking a first smile.
"On the podium, I was angry with myself because I had good legs. I lost two minutes because of a problem like this. It's really, really disappointing. It was really not necessary. I only lost two minutes in 33 kilometres chasing alone all the time, so I definitely had the legs to follow Quintana and Nibali. Just because of a problem I lost two minutes. That's super disappointing."
When asked what happened, his reply was simple.
"I need to shit ... That's it," he said, giving more details of why he was struck with stomach problems.
"I felt sick all of a sudden, after the top of the Stelvio, when we hit the downhill, that's when the problem occurred.
"It could be a combination of the altitude and eating more gels than normal, you can't eat bars on climbs like these."
No fair play for toilet stops
Dumoulin was asked if the other overall contenders should have waited for him after he stopped, stripped down to his shorts and squatted in the roadside ditch.
On stage 15, Dumoulin had eased up and indicated to other riders to wait for Quintana after the Movistar rider crashed on a descent on Sunday. However, the Dutchman made it clear he did not expect his rivals to wait this time.
"I don't really know what happened in the front. I heard that Movistar waited a little but the race was on and they were chasing riders like Steven Kruijswijk. I can't blame them for wanting to chase him. You can't give Kruijswijk three minutes; it's was a difficult situation."
Dumoulin occasionally struggled to speak in English such was his fatigue and disappointment but revealed he has suffered from similar digestive problems before and managed to recover.
"I had the same problem in the Tour de France last year and then I won the Queen stage to Andorra," he pointed out, refusing to dismiss his chances of holding not the pink jersey in the remaining mountain stages and the final time trial to Milan.
"I hope to recover. I hope I'm not sick and it's the same problem as last year. That'd mean the Giro is not over."