Tom Dumoulin spent only a short time expressing his disappointment after Team Sunweb lost the team time trial at the UCI Road World Championships in Innsbruck on Sunday, before he quickly turned his attention to the upcoming individual time trial on Wednesday.
“It feels like a slight disappointment after winning gold last year but we did a really good team time trial, and we can be very proud of ourselves,” Dumoulin told the press in the mixed zone area following the podium ceremony.
“Of course, when you are the world champions from last year, anything other than winning will always feel a bit disappointing."
Sunweb had to settle for the silver medal after they crossed the finish line 18 seconds slower than the winning team Quick-Step Floors. The Belgian squad covered the course in 1:07:25 and secured their fourth team time trial world title after winning in 2012 in Valkenburg, 2013 in Florence and 2016 in Doha.
Sunweb lined up as the defending champions after winning last year’s title in Bergen. Dumoulin led the roster that also included Wilco Kelderman, Chad Haga, Michael Matthews, Sam Oomen and Soren Kragh Andersen.
Their team was well-suited to the 62.5km course, which was mostly flat in the first half. The second half included a stinging 4km climb with pitches as steep as 13 per cent, followed by a fast descent and flat run-in into Innsbruck.
“It wasn’t too hard,” Dumoulin said. “The first 40km were completely flat and fast, and the last 20km had the climb. I think we did it well, but we didn’t have the firepower after the climb to make a difference, and that is where we lost it a bit.”
Dumoulin said the loss was all the more disappointing because this was the last year the UCI will host a trade team time trial. The sport’s governing body announced in the summer that they would replace it with a national team time trial.
“Personally, of course, it’s disappointing,” Dumoulin said. “It’s a nice event for us to show as a team and it’s the most 'team' event that you can find in cycling. I can also understand the other side. If it’s not interesting enough for the public then you need to consider making it different or taking it away.”
Next year, each national team will be expected to field a men’s and women’s team that will race separately, and their respective times will combine into one final time that will rank each nation.
“I hear that it will be a national team event with men and women racing separately and then combining the times. I don’t know. It’s even weirder. It’s just weird,” Dumoulin said.
“It’s like having two team time trials in one day anyway. It’s not like we will be cooperating in one team event.
“And then suddenly we will have to go with our national teammates, and two days before the event we say, ‘Hey, let’s go do a team time trial together’. It’s just weird, and it doesn’t make it more interesting.”
ITT more important than road race for Dumoulin
Dumoulin was able to put a positive spin on Sunweb’s loss in the team time trial, saying that it was the perfect preparation for Wednesday’s individual time trial.
The Dutchman will again line up as the defending champion after winning last year’s event in Bergen, and he hopes to bring home a second consecutive world title.
“I think this team time trial was the perfect preparation for Wednesday,” he told the press. “It’s one last little kick before the time trial. I felt good today, and so I hope that I feel the same on Wednesday.”
The elite men will race 52.5km from Rattenberg to Innsbruck. The event is mostly flat but includes a 4km climb to Gnadenwald that has a maximum gradient of 14 per cent. It's then downhill and rolling to the finish line.
He told the press that Australia’s Rohan Dennis would be his biggest threat but cautioned not to discount several other strong contenders. He noted that he was the favourite to win the time trial in Richmond in 2015 but ended up finishing in fifth place behind winner Vasil Kiryienka, Adriano Malori, Jerome Coppel and Jonathan Castroviejo.
“It’s always hard to say,” Dumoulin said. “I don’t know how Rohan Dennis rode his team time trial today. The time trial is probably going to be between Rohan and me on Wednesday - if you look at our past results.
“The World Championships is always a surprise, though. In Richmond, a few years back, we had Tony Martin, Rohan Dennis and myself as the pre-race favourites, and none of us got on the podium.”
Dumoulin has had a strong season with second places at both the Giro d’Italia and Tour de France, and he will line up as a contender for the elite men’s 258.5km road race on Sunday. The route ends with a decisive climb over Höll, positioned near the end of the race, and which could potentially decide the winner.
The Dutch will field a strong team that also includes Kelderman, Oomen, Steven Kruijswijk, Wout Poels, Bauke Mollema, Antwan Tolhoek and Pieter Weening.
“I went to altitude camp after Germany [Deutschland Tour] and did some good training on the time trial bike and the road bike,” said Dumoulin, who downplayed his chances for success in the road race.
“It’s always difficult to be top … and I’m missing out on a long ride now because before the team time trial and the individual time trial we don’t do any long rides. But I’m able to push myself in training, and that is normally enough.”
Dumoulin admitted, however, that next Sunday’s road race was less of a goal for him in Innsbruck, and that his primary target will be to win the time trial in two days.
“My chances are bigger in the individual time trial, and so I’m fully going for that,” he said. “After that, I will see how I feel during the road race.”