Dumoulin's road to Rio runs through the Giro d'Italia

Dutchman prioritises time trials over GC in 2016

Jack of all trades he may be, but for 2016, at least, Tom Dumoulin has designs only on being master of the time trial. Although the Dutchman revealed during Thursday’s Giant-Alpecinpresentation in Berlin that he will ride the Giro d’Italia this May, he stressed that his season will be built around the time trial at the Rio 2016 Olympics.

Carrying the red jersey into the final weekend of last year’s Vuelta a España confirmed the feeling of many that – despite his own protestations, that Dumoulin was a Grand Tour contender in waiting. Yet while he will line up at the Giro d’Italia seeking to wear the pink jersey on home roads in the opening time trial in Apeldoorn, he insisted he does not harbours of ambitions of carrying it all the way to Milan.

“If you do a good GC ride once, it’s very tempting to become a GC rider and always go for GC in Grand Tours but my main goals are actually the time trial in Rio and the time trials in the Giro, so it’s going to be more of a time trial year than a GC year,” Dumoulin explained to Cyclingnews and the media at the Giant-Alpecin team presentation in Berlin.

Throughout his short career, Dumoulin’s biggest problem has often been his surfeit of options, given his talents against the watch, in shorter stage races and hilly one-day races. When mapping out his 2016 campaign, Dumoulin simply started with his priority: the Olympic time trial, and adapted the rest of the calendar around the Brazilian expedition.

“We knew that Rio would be the focus, the main goal, so we looked at what we could do. Normally two weeks after a Grand Tour, I’m going quite well so the Tour would have been an option. But on the other hand, I always react really well to altitude camps and training in general – look at the Vuelta, I only did six weeks of training before and I was in great shape,” Dumoulin said.

“In the end, we went for the Giro because it starts in Holland and it’s a beautiful course for me with the two time trials, so there’s a chance to wear the pink jersey early on. How we approach things after the Giro is not completely certain yet, but probably it’s going to be training and the Tour of Poland.”

Having spent the first ten days of the 2015 Vuelta firmly insisting he had no expectations of staying in the general classification hunt for three weeks, Dumoulin may have built a rod for his own back when it comes to downplaying expectations at the Giro d’Italia. And if Dumoulin peforms as he can in the Chianti time trial on stage 9, he will likely find himself in the general classification battle whether he wishes it or not.

“We’ll see after nine days how the GC is formed or where I’m at. It’s not the focus to go there for GC from the start, but what do you do if you’re still in GC after nine days? It’s a bit the like the Vuelta: we don’t have a plan yet, but it would be a waste to then sit up and do nothing,” Dumoulin said.

Thinking of Rio

Dumoulin will begin his 2016 campaign at the Tour of Oman in late February, before tackling Paris-Nice, Milan-San Remo and the Volta a Catalunya. An appearance before his Limburg fans at Amstel Gold Race apart, he will eschew the Ardennes Classics in order to take in an altitude training camp ahead of the Tour de Romandie and the Giro d’Italia.

“I didn’t want to do all of the Ardennes Classics because I’ve focused three or four years on being good there and it never worked out. Maybe it’s not my time of year,” he admitted.

After the Giro d’Italia, all thoughts turn to Olympic preparations, though Dumoulin has ruled out the prospect of travelling to Rio de Janeiro to reconnoitre the course beforehand, citing the limited benefits of such a mid-season trek. He has been aware for the past two years, however, that the hilly parcours suits him better than, say, Tony Martin.

“We did a course recon of the Tour prologue in Utrecht last year and it wasn’t very helpful. I saw what it was like but it wasn’t like I changed my training or anything. It was only to see it, and it was so far ahead of the Tour that I forgot the course by the time it actually came around. And it didn’t change anything in terms of the result, I think,” Dumoulin said.

“And that was also our thought about going to Rio – will it change anything? Because it’s quite a long trip just to see a course, so we made the decision not to go. The national coach has filmed it, so I have all the videos, and I will watch it and in any case, I will be there at least a week or ten days before the Olympics.”

At one point during his round of interviews in Berlin’s Italian Embassy on Thursday, a television reporter asked Dumoulin to record a piece to camera urging viewers to “watch him win the Olympics” on her channel. For the only time all morning, Dumoulin politely declined a media request. “I’m not going to say that,” he smiled. “I can’t.”

Three days before the time trial, of course, Dumoulin will line out in what – at least on paper – ought to be the most demanding Olympic road race since the event was opened to professionals in 1996. After his exploits in the Canadian WorldTour races in 2014 and the Vuelta last year, the 25-year-old will line with an understandable degree of expectation in the race on August 6 to boot.

“There’s always three days in between the road race and time trial, and that’s just enough I think. Cancellara got a bronze medal in Beijing and then won the time trial. Wiggins did the whole road race full on the front for Cavendish in London and then won the time trial, so I think history has proved that it’s possible,” he said.

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