Race organisers and the UCI are yet to officially announce as to whether a winner would be declared if the race was stopped after a specific number of stages due to the global pandemic, but Dumoulin, who lines up alongside Primož Roglič as team leader at Jumbo-Visma, has stated that if the race was halted after 10 days the declared winner wouldn’t be a ‘real winner’.
“We don’t have a strategic plan to be in the lead in case the race stops after one and a half weeks,” Dumoulin said during Jumbo-Visma’s pre-Tour press conference on Thursday in Nice.
“The winner after one a and a half weeks isn’t the real winner of the Tour de France. That’s not a Tour de France, that’s a ten-day race. It’s a different race. It’s completely different. We’re preparing for Grand Tour and we want to win the Tour de France.”
The Tour is set to start in Nice on Saturday and while there are clusters of new COVID-19 cases and national cases are on the rise across France, the race organisers and the Tour de France teams have put in place a strict protocol to help ensure that the race continues. There is still debate over the ‘two strikes and you’re out' rule with teams hopeful that ASO and French authorities will relax their stance before the race starts.
“At the moment it doesn’t look good with some of the numbers around Nice and France but at the moment we are just in our own bubble and we’re just looking to be back racing," Dumoulin said.
"For the fans it has a lot of consequences. It’s inadvisable to come to the race, especially as a Dutch fan. It’s not a Tour de France that has the summer feeling that we’re used to but as riders, we’re happy to be back racing. We’re going to make the most of it.”
Jumbo-Visma line up with one of the strongest teams in the race with Dumoulin and Primož Roglič yellow jersey contenders, despite losing Steven Kruijswijk in a crash at the Critérium du Dauphiné.
Roglič is said to be over the injuries he sustained in the Dauphiné, while Dumoulin is getting stronger and stronger with each passing day. That said, the 2017 Giro d’Italia winner believes that this year’s Tour is more than just a battle between Jumbo and Team Ineos.
“It’s not Jumbo-Visma against Ineos. It’s going to be a battle between a lot of riders. At least 20 riders are on the start line with hopes of winning or being on the podium. We just have to make sure that we’re the best of them,” Dumoulin said.
“I’m happy with how the Tour de L’Ain went and the Dauphiné. I improved during those races and I think that I needed those races to get back into the rhythm. Now I’m here on the start line of the Tour de France and it’s a good feeling.”
"Of course it’s not exactly the same. We are missing Steven here. He would have been one of our best guys here. Were going to miss him and we need to change our tactics but hopefully now it’s Primoz and me that go for the GC. We’ll both try and be close to the podium in the final week and then we’ll see what happens."
Roglic at the start and ready to race
As for Roglič, he’s happy to be fit and healthy after a recent scare at the Dauphiné threatened his Tour participation.
He crashed while leading the race on the penultimate stage and failed to start the final day of racing as a precaution. Rumours surrounding his fitness had been swirling around for several days but the 2019 Vuetla winner believes he’s ready.
The pre-race favourite wouldn’t be drawn on his main rivals but admitted that Dumoulin was in peak condition and that the team would be focusing on themselves, rather than their rivals.
“The thing is I’m here and I’m at the start. That’s really good news and it’s nice to be here. I’m also ready. We start on Saturday and I’ll just try to do my best and we’ll see how it goes,’ he said.
“Everyone starting on Saturday starts from the same position so everyone has the chance to win but the fact is that the strongest guy will win. Looking to Tom I think he’s made big steps and he’s ready to be at his best here. It’s a lot nicer now to have such a strong guy in the team and we’ll try and do the best that we can.
"Mostly we need to focus on ourselves, it’s the only thing that we can manage. I think that we need to try and do our best, as individuals and as a team. I don’t really think about the other guys.”
“For sure the plans changed for me coming into the race. We didn’t plan to have this complicated start but with the crash, it took quite some time for me to restart and to be able to do the things that I wanted to do but in the last few days I’ve managed that and I’m looking forward to the start.”
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