Tom Dumoulin (Sunweb) has taken confidence from his first hit-out of the season on stage 3 of the Abu Dhabi Tour, where he left mind games to those behind him as he followed his own pace up Jebel Hafeet. Dumoulin finished third behind winner Rui Costa (UAE Team Emirates) and Ilnur Zakarin (Katusha). He came close but was unable to catch the pair with a lone chase in the final three kilometres of the hilltop finale.
“On a climb with quite a lot of wind, it was difficult to catch them and it wasn’t possible but I’m really happy about this, it means I had a good winter,” Dumoulin said. “Of course, I would like to win and I think I might not have been worse than the two in front, because all the time on the same distance, I was alone against a headwind. It means that I have good legs, but for the win you need a little bit of luck and good timing. The two in front did it perfect.”
Dumoulin was focused on the race rather than the tactical and psychological manoeuvres that played out in the main group between favourites Nairo Quintana (Movistar) and Alberto Contador (Trek-Segafredo), who seemed more intent on antagonising each other than vying for victory.
“It’s the first test of the season so they all want to show off, and that gives other guys possibilities,” Dumoulin said.
The Dutchman accelerated away from the main group inside the final six kilometres, riding alongside fellow countryman Steven Kruijswijk (LottoNL – Jumbo) before taking after the race leaders on his own.
“I was doing a time trial as soon as I attacked. I knew they were holding back a little bit on the downhill sections and that gave them a little bit of an edge on the uphill sections. I was doing one pace,” he said.
Dumoulin, who has only begun his season in Abu Dhabi this week, realised he wouldn’t catch the pair with one kilometre to go, but was content with the first major effort of could be a career-defining season for the 26-year-old, who will lead Sunweb at the Giro d’Italia in May.
“The last uphill section at one kilometre to go or something, I knew I had to be in the wheel there otherwise it would have been impossible,” he said. “It’s alright. I’ve been climbing a lot the last couple of weeks in South Africa. That has always paid off in the past for me, and it does now again so I’m really happy about that.”