After the first uphill skirmish between the overall favourites in the Giro d’Italia on stage 4 Tom Dumoulin (Giant-Alpecin) has regained the pink jersey of overall leader, and he now hopes to retain the magnolia rosa as far as the Chianti time trial. But Dumoulin insists that his long-term GC goals remain much less clear.
Short term, there was no doubt about Dumoulin’s goal on Tuesday and wanting pink back on his shoulders. With less than a kilometre to go on stage 4, the Giant-Alpecin rider pounded clear of the leading pack on the long, flat approach road to the finish, but as he revealed afterwards, he was one of several cards Giant-Alpecin had to play in the last part of the race.
“The final was really out of control but we had four guys in the top 10 on GC up there, so we had a lot of options,” Dumoulin said afterwards. “We had [team-mate] Georg Priedler and I’d have really liked him to have been in pink because I’ve already led the race and he really deserves it because of all the hard work he’s done.
“But after he went clear, they just caught him back and it all came back together again, and then the finish was just crazy enough for me to get ahead and go for the win.”
Dumoulin had said earlier in the race that he was not at all sure if overnight leader Marcel Kittel (Etixx-Quick Step) would get dropped on the steep climbs in the final, given the German had shown he was so strong. “But Marcel couldn’t handle that climb, and we decided to start chasing down the breakaways. It worked out just fine.”
Whilst the Netherlands rider showed on stage 4 that he could easily handle the shorter, less tricky climbs, the million dollar question is whether he will now begin to challenge for the overall and the much bigger climbs to come. Stage 4 was the first and an important confirmation that the Dutchman has not lost his climbing legs completely this spring, for all his big goal of the summer is the Olympic time trial.
But Dumoulin genuinely seems uncertain of whether he can stay with the best in the mountains, given his preparation has been geared strictly towards doing well in the time trials in the Giro d’Italia, rather than reaching Turin in the upper echelons of GC. For one thing his lack of pre-Giro altitude training, he says, will do him no favours in the gc battle.
Yet no matter how many times he explains it, the questions about Dumoulin’s climbing prowess and potential GC bid remain, particularly after his near-miss in last year’s Vuelta a España.
“Maybe I’m not telling it right, or everybody is not getting it right, but I don’t think my level in the high mountains will be high enough,” Dumoulin said. "It’s going to be very hard to fight for the overall classification. Of course I will keep on riding in the Giro and I will keep on doing my best, and I will keep going. When I get dropped then I get dropped.”
On the plus side for Dumoulin, he is still in the top spot overall and after the tricky stage 4 finale, as he sees it, the upcoming days are not so hard. Certainly when it comes to the first uphill finish on Thursday, a relatively benign second category ascent, Dumoulin believes he can hold onto the lead - and that, perhaps, rather than anything longer term was the real lesson from Tuesday’s short but tough ascent.
Reaching Chianti’s time trial in pink and even reinforcing the lead there is, after Tuesday, a very real possibility. After that, it really does appear to be a case of che sará, sará.
Alasdair Fotheringham has been reporting on cycling since 1991. He has covered every Tour de France since 1992 as well as numerous other bike races of all shapes and sizes, ranging from the Olympic Games in 2008 to the now sadly defunct Subida a Urkiola hill climb in Spain. Apart from working for Cyclingnews.com, he is also the cycling correspondent for The Independent and The Independent on Sunday.
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