Tom Dumoulin (Team Sunweb) currently sits third overall at the Tour de France, and is well placed to challenge for the yellow jersey. But the Dutchman admits that if Chris Froome (Team Sky) delivers another Finestre-like performance, he could be helpless to stop him.
Dumoulin currently has Froome in his sights, at just 11 seconds ahead of him on the GC, while Geraint Thomas is 1:50 in front of Dumoulin, leading the race.
With an individual time trial to come on stage 20, Dumoulin knows that he can bide his time behind Froome in the Pyrenees and strike on his favoured terrain. However, in the back of his mind must be the fact that, no matter his condition, Froome could roll out another performance like the one on stage 19 between Venaria Reale and Bardonecchia at the Giro d'Italia, which featured the climb of the Colle delle Finestre. That day, Froome attacked 80 kilometres from the finish and singlehandedly held off the rest of the peloton to win the stage and seal the overall.
Dumoulin confirmed that he is in better shape at this stage of the Tour than he was at this point in the Giro as he vies to win his second Grand Tour.
"I'm slightly better than at the Giro. I'm climbing slightly better here. I was pretty stable over the three weeks at the Giro, and of course I don't know how it's going to be here," Dumoulin said after stage 14.
When asked about the Froome's ride on the Finestre stage, and the danger of a possible repeat at the Tour, the Dutchman said: "It could happen. If Froome is better and he pulls one off, then I can't do anything about it. I just have to maintain my health and stay strong. I hope that doesn't happen. That day wasn't about tactics. I just couldn't follow."
On stage 14 to Mende on Saturday, the three riders at the top of the overall classification all matched each other on the final climb. The trio lost a handful of seconds to Primoz Roglic (LottoNL-Jumbo), but also put time into the likes of Movistar pair Mikel Landa and Nairo Quintana, and AG2R La Mondiale's Romain Bardet.
Although Dumoulin failed to drop his Team Sky rivals, he was able to put them under pressure with a strong attack before the race reached the summit of the final ascent.
"I think we were evenly matched," he said. "We tried to attack each other a little bit but I think we were even, like in the Alps. I think it will come down to the Pyrenees.
"I attacked first, and then Thomas was on my wheel. Froome closed the gap and then attacked, and it was Thomas who closed the gap to Froome."
Roglic, however, has become the dark horse for a spot on the podium. The Slovenian has been consistent throughout the race, and his LottoNL-Jumbo team have been aggressive since the start of the Alps.
"He was the strongest today," Dumoulin admitted. "He showed that in Tirreno-Adriatico, where he also attacked on a steep climb. He's really good at those efforts. I hope that the Pyrenees are going to be more of an aerobic effort, and that it will beat him."
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