The time triallist must travel light, and as Tom Dumoulin (Giant-Alpecin) peered out at the rain from the start house in Radda in Chianti on Sunday afternoon, he realised that he would be carrying too much baggage on the route of the Giro d’Italia’s stage 9 time trial.
For all the forward planning that goes into it, in its execution, time trialling is a discipline of sensations rather than of thoughts. The rain-soaked roads meant that Dumoulin already doubted that he would be unable to beat the mark established by eventual stage winner Primoz Roglic (LottoNL-Jumbo). Once he began over-thinking the curves and bends in the road, any chance of reclaiming the maglia rosa vanished, too.
“When I have my best time trials, I have no thoughts. I just go and I don’t think about it,” Dumoulin said on Monday afternoon. “But before and during the time trial [on Sunday], I had thoughts like ‘Ooh, should I take this corner? Let’s brake a little more to be safe.’ If you have those thoughts, you’re never going to win. Winning was never possible anyway, but I wasn’t going to be able to take the pink jersey either. Thinking is bad in a TT.”
The Chianti time trial was the second leg of a total loss weekend for Dumoulin, who had already conceded the overall lead of the Giro when he was distanced on the dirt climb of Alpi di Poti, near Arezzo on Saturday afternoon. Speaking to reporters outside the Semifonte Hotel near Barberino Val d’Elsa as the Giro broke for its second rest day on Monday, Dumoulin had no doubts as to which was the greater setback.
The general classification at the Giro was always something of a speculative punt for Dumoulin, who has built his season around the time trial at the Rio 2016 Olympics, but stage 9 in Chianti was, he felt, a rather surer bet.
“The stage from Saturday was a disappointment because I didn’t expect to lose the pink jersey that quickly. My level wasn’t high enough to go for GC so I knew I was going to lose it somewhere. It was earlier than expected but still it was OK, but yesterday was actually the main goal of this Giro and the bigger disappointment,” Dumoulin said.
“It was a time trial that suited me very well. It would have been one of the most beautiful time trials I had ever done if it had been sunny but I knew before the start I had no chance to win it.”
Dumoulin’s 15th-place finish in Sunday’s time trial lifts him from 11th to 7th overall, 58 seconds off the maglia rosa of Gianluca Brambilla (Etixx-QuickStep). In the immediate aftermath of the stage, he told reporters that he would remove himself from the upper reaches of the general standings in order to focus on chasing stage wins. He reiterated that stance on Monday afternoon, on the eve of the Giro’s next summit finish at Sestola.
“I think I don’t have another choice tomorrow because my saddle sore is really a problem. I will take the start but I think I will lose time anyway because I’m not feeling well and maybe it’s better to take that time tomorrow instead of going for a few days and finding I’m still too close on GC to get in a breakaway,” Dumoulin said. “It’s better to lose it tomorrow than try to hang on as long as possible and fuck up my saddle sore even more.”
Dumoulin had begun to notice the effects of a saddle sore following his attack on the Giro’s first summit finish at Roccaraso on stage 6, but he was reluctant to blame the irritation for his struggles two days later on the road to Arezzo.
“If you see my performance on the day I attacked, I think my shape was quite good, way better than I expected it to be in the mountains and it’s strange that two days after that you’re 20 per cent worse than before. Normally that doesn’t happen,” Dumoulin said.
“The explanation could be that an inflamed saddle sore is not really helpful for your shape. But I don’t want to put everything on the saddle sore, either. I don’t know exactly: it was just a bad day.”
While Dumoulin is revising his plans for the remainder of this Giro – or at least, reverting to what he calls ‘Plan A’ – his build-up to Rio de Janeiro and the Olympic time trial remains unchanged. His sole race between the Giro and Rio is likely to be the Tour de Pologne, with training camps at altitude either side of the event.
“The Tour is too much with the whole Giro, so I’ll probably do two shorter altitude camps, one before Poland and one afterwards. How we see it now, I’m not going to go to the Tour,” said Dumoulin, who confirmed that he will extend his season to October in order to tackle the World Championships, though he will not return to the Vuelta a España this year.
“The Worlds TT is going to be completely flat, but I’ve also won flat TTs so I would be crazy not to go for it.”
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Barry Ryan is Head of Features at Cyclingnews. He has covered professional cycling since 2010, reporting from the Tour de France, Giro d’Italia and events from Argentina to Japan. His writing has appeared in The Independent, Procycling and Cycling Plus. He is the author of The Ascent: Sean Kelly, Stephen Roche and the Rise of Irish Cycling’s Golden Generation (opens in new tab), published by Gill Books.