Few could fault him if he were to take it easy for the rest of the season after such a hard-earned Giro victory, but Dumoulin quickly proved that a relaxing summer and fall weren't in the cards. Upon returning to competition after a monthlong break during the Tour de France, he showed no signs of rust, delivering a respectable fourth-place finish at the Clasica San Sebastian before winning the overall title at the BinckBank Tour.
Now, he's in Canada for the GPs Québec and Montréal, with the Bergen World Championships on the horizon. Press conferences and interviews in Canada always gravitate towards talk of rainbow jerseys, but Dumoulin insists he didn't cross the Atlantic just to tweak his form ahead of the Bergen Worlds, where he'll be among the favourites in the time trial and at least a contender in the road race.
"I'm more focused on Worlds, but when I'm here I want to win. Or at least try! I made the whole travel not just to see the city, but to race hard and hopefully win," Dumoulin told Cyclingnews in Quebec. He finished second in the Quebec race back in 2014, passed by winner Simon Gerrans in the closing metres.
Considering the hilly profiles of both Canadian races, he and Sunweb teammate Michael Matthews are among the main favourites, and Dumoulin sounded pleased with the way things have been going lately in training.
"I had three weeks off now from racing. I went to altitude camp and did one last real big block of preparation for these races and the Worlds. I'm just hoping it works out. I didn't have a lot of race days this year, but obviously it was quite a hectic year for me. We'll see what's left in the tank. I think that's a question for everyone. But I feel good now."
Among the sport's best against the clock for years, Dumoulin has won individual time trials in all three Grand Tours, but has never quite managed to pull of a win at the World Championships. A bronze medal in 2014 was his best ever result there.
After Dumoulin's brilliant Giro d'Italia, and with current world title holder Tony Martin (Katusha-Alpecin) having no pro TT wins on his palmares this year outside his German national championship, the 27-year-old Dutchman will be a major favourite in Bergen. The up-and-down 31km route, which finishes with a short but very steep finishing climb, is to his liking as a big engine who can also handle significant gradients – although Dumoulin pointed out that that only matters so much.
"Normally it suits me really well, but it all depends on form and legs," he said. "It can suit me however I want but if I don't have the legs and Rohan Dennis, for example, has them, then it's a done deal."
Dumoulin didn't hesitate to name the Australian chrono specialist as his main concern for the upcoming Worlds.
"I think Dennis is the top rival," he said. "I haven't beaten him for about a year already. Every TT I'm against him, he's winning. So it's going to be a difficult one. And I heard Froome is also doing it so he could be a main contender. Tony Martin is always a guy to watch out for but I think the course suits him a little less than in the other years. It all depends on legs."
However it plays out, Dumoulin says that he has already nailed his biggest target of the season. With a pink jersey in the bag, he's relaxed, though undoubtedly motivated, as the season nears its close rather than scrambling for a result.
"I don't have to 'make' my season anymore," he said. "It's a really nice thought. I can hopefully put a cherry on the cake."
Dumoulin can't be discounted for the road race either. Although he points out that the "TT is definitely a bit higher on the list" because "I think my chances are just bigger" there, Dumoulin will be among the Dutch team's top options in the road race as well.
As might be expected for a line-up that also includes Bauke Mollema, Niki Terpstra, Wout Poels and Lars Boom, the Dutch game plan should see him and his teammates animating the race. If they don't, as Dumoulin had no qualms admitting, they won't have much of a shot to bring home a rainbow jersey.
"We don't really have [one] strong leader. Like Australia with Michael Matthews, they have one big leader, he's the top favourite, done. We don't have that as a country. But I think we can still do a very good race," Dumoulin said. "We have a couple of guys that are suited to the race but we are all not the finishers we hope to be in a race like that. We just have to make the situation so that there's not going to be a sprint of like 30 guys, because then we don't have anyone who can win it. At the Worlds, attacks should be our way to win."
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