The images of Tom Dumoulin and Rohan Dennis at the finish of the men's individual time trial at the UCI Road World Championships could hardly be more different. While Dennis lifted his bike aloft after destroying the previous best time, Dumoulin was slumped over his and struggled to get off it after battling to a silver medal in Innsbruck.
He had started the day as one of the big favourites, alongside Dennis, but he was quickly fighting to salvage what he could. In the end, he lost 1:21 to Dennis over the 52.2-kilometre course and almost saw silver slip through his fingers as he finished just a few fractions of a second quicker than Belgium's Victor Campenaerts. Dumoulin was still struggling as he made his way through the various press. He spoke with his usual smile, but inside he was hurting.
"Physically, I'm a broken man now. I didn't have a really good feeling afterwards," Dumoulin said. "I was not good enough, that is pretty much the story of the day. I tried to limit my losses on the flat part and I hoped that maybe I would find my legs again on the climb but it was all going downhill from the first checkpoint until the finish. I just didn't have a good feeling.
"It was a physical and mental struggle for an hour. It was good not to know the intermediate times. I wouldn't have been second otherwise. I fought all the way to the finish. That's how it is, sometimes you win, sometimes you lose."
It has been a busy 2018 campaign for Dumoulin with two Grand Tour GC bids, the first time he has attempted such a thing. He won the prologue at the Giro d'Italia and spent a day in pink before going on to eventually finish second overall to Chris Froome. He then returned to racing at the Tour de France, where he won the penultimate day time trial and took second overall again, this time to Geraint Thomas.
Since July, Dumoulin did just one race ahead of the World Championships, the four-day Deutschland Tour. The Dutchman returned to action on Sunday where he helped Sunweb to a second place in the team time trial. Dumoulin admitted afterwards that the heavy racing schedule could have played its part but he had still gone into Wednesday's time trial with his sights set on taking a second rainbow jersey.
"Inside I could say yes, but I arrived at the start of the TT with the goal of being world champion again. But from the first kilometre I was pretty sure it was not going to happen," he explained. "I was just not on my top level today. I have to be satisfied with second. I'm actually not, I came here to win but that was definitely not happening."
Dumoulin has still one more effort to do at the World Championships as part of the Netherland's eight-man team. The Dutch also boast Wilco Kelderman, Bauke Mollema, Steven Kruijswijk and Wout Poels in their line-up. Anyone of them could feasibly take home a medal on Sunday. Dumoulin is cautious about his chances given his performance in the time trial, but he's trying to remain upbeat about his prospects.
"I'm not a favourite for Sunday. I hope to surprise, of course, but with my shape today that's not going to work. I hope that I will have better legs on Sunday," he said. "I haven't seen the course. I have time. I'm supposed to do a longer rider tomorrow but that probably won't happen. I'll be alright for Sunday. I had a bad time trial in Richmond and then had my best road race performance after that. I'm just going into Sunday with an open mind and we'll see happens."
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