It was almost a perfect return to racing for Tom Dumoulin (Giant-Alpecin) at the Vuelta a España as the 24-year-old finished runner up to Esteban Chaves (Orica-GreenEdge) on the first road stage of the Spanish grand tour. Dumoulin crashed out of the Tour de France, dislocating his left-shoulder, with the yellow jersey in touching distance with the neutralised stage 1 team time trial his first day back racing.
"I am very happy and satisfied. It took me two weeks to recover after my crash in the Tour, and from that moment I was determined to come back even stronger," Dumoulin said. "I worked really hard for this and I am delighted that it worked out so well."
On the punchy climb on the Caminito del Rey, Dumoulin hit out early to gain an advantage and forced a selection with Chaves and Nico Roche (Team Sky) joining the Dutchman after Nairo Quintana (Movistar) and Louis Meintjes (MTN-Qhubeka) had briefly been company. With the changing gradient making it difficult for the rouleur to find a rhythm, Dumoulin sat on Chaves' wheel as the duo rode away from Roche inside the few hundred metres.
With team time trial neutralised due to safety concerns of the beachside parcours, there would also be red leader's jersey waiting for the stage winner along with a ten second bonus for stage victory. Dumoulin tried to come around Chaves with 100 metres to race but it was the Colombian skipping away to victory.
"Today’s result was a wonderful surprise," said coach Addy Engels of his rider who expected to be challenging for stage wins in the second and third weeks, not the first. "We knew that Tom had recovered well after crashing out of the Tour, but this is above our expectations. It is really impressive to see him performing like this in his first race back.
"We are very satisfied and we will continue to chase our goal of a stage win in the next days."
Following on from his stint in the Tour's best young riders jersey, Dumoulin will wear collect another grand tour classification jersey as he wears the green points jersey on stage three by virtue of occupying second place in the classification along with the combination classification. While stage 3 is likely to finish in a bunch sprint finish, Dumoulin could see himself contesting for the stage win again on stage 4 with its punchy finish to Valdepeñas de Jaén. If Dumoulin manages to wrest the leader's jersey from Chaves, he would be the first Dutchman since Bauke Mollema in 2011 to lead the Vuelta. Not quite the burden of breaking the 26 year drought of Dutchman wearing yellow at the Tour.
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