Tom Dumoulin (Team Sunweb) was here at the Criterium du Dauphine to test his legs and stay out of trouble. The onus was on building up for the Tour de France without any real thought for the Dauphine general classification, and while that remains the case, the Dutchman still caused a stir and sparked a huge reaction after infiltrating the early break on stage 2.
In truth, Dumoulin wasn't the only five-star rider to make the break on a day that saw rain, wind and eight climbs in between Mauriac and Craponne-sur-Arzon, with Julian Alaphilippe (Deceuninck-QuickStep) and potential GC candidate Emanuel Buchmann (Bora-Hansgrohe) making the 13-strong move. The break sparked a reaction from Chris Froome and Team Ineos, with the British WorldTour team working tirelessly, and in the end successfully, to neutralise the move.
For Dumoulin, who came to France only after crashing out of the Giro d'Italia with an injured knee, this was another step in the right direction as he continues his on-the-road rehabilitation before July. It was also a timely reminder of just how much respect the peloton has for Dumoulin, even if he is far from his ultimate best.
"I wanted to make a nice hard day for myself," he half-joked at the finish as he spoke to ITV and other reporters.
"It wasn't the plan to go in the break, but it split behind us. I knew that it would be very difficult to go to the finish with that group because Alaphilippe was there and Buchmann. I was there. I think Ineos were pretty scared of that break and they didn't want to let us go. That's logical, but I had a good day out."
Dumoulin's day was over when Team Ineos reeled in the break towards the end of the stage, and the Team Sunweb rider eventually finished almost nine minutes down on the winner and the likes of Froome and Thibaut Pinot (Groupama-FDJ). Still, if the GC at the Dauphine was never the objective, Dumoulin can count stage 2 at the Dauphine as a success. He has come through two days of back-to-back racing, and with his time loss, he can fully concentrate on his recovery and the search for Tour de France form.
The time trial on stage 4 will provide another opportunity for the former Giro d'Italia winner to lay down a marker, but with each passing stage, his powers and confidence will grow. That respect from his rivals is well warranted.
"So far so good, so I'm pretty satisfied with where it's going," he said with a smile.
"My level isn't where it's supposed to be to fight for a GC, but I decided to give it a go and to get a good ride in the break. I'm very satisfied with how the knee is holding up so far, so it's going all right. Now it's just a case of keeping this trajectory, and hopefully my shape is going to improve over the next couple of weeks."
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