Tom Dumoulin (Giant-Alpecin) appointed himself as the favourite for the gold medal in the time trial in Olympic Games in Rio next month after taking a resounding victory in the Tour de France stage 13 time trial on Friday.
The Dutchman, who had taken a debut Tour stage win in the mountains less than a week ago, powered round the blustery and hilly 37.5km course in the Ardèche department to claim stage honours by over a minute from Chris Froome in second place.
The course began with a seven-kilometre climb and ended with a 3km drag, and Dumoulin, who is stronger going uphill than other rouleurs, hopes the Rio course – where climbs are shorter but steeper – will play similarly into his hands. When asked if he was now the favourite for Olympic gold, there was little hesitation from the 25-year-old, who has won time trials in each of the last three Grand Tours.
"I think I am – I cannot deny that after today," he said in his post-stage press conference in La Caverde du Pont d'Arc.
He did, however, explain that it wasn't as straightforward as simply turning up in Brazil to collect his gold medal.
"I know that doing a TT after 12 days in the Tour de France against a lot of guys who are suffering every day – I'm not suffering every day – is very different to shining in a one-day event," he said.
"There are still almost four weeks until the Rio, and a lot can happen shape-wise in that time. It's up to me to maintain my exceptional shape, and that means I won't go full gas every day [for the rest of the Tour] – I'll keep picking my days and hopefully it will pay off in Rio, again."
The time trial stage was overshadowed by events the previous night in Nice, where a terror attack saw 84 people killed by a lorry driver ploughing into people along the Promenade des Anglais – which itself hosted a team time trial stage three years ago.
The stage went ahead – "We shouldn't give in to the pressure of the people who would like us to change our lifestyle," said Christian Prudhomme – but Dumoulin admitted he had been rattled.
"My focus got a little bit…I went a bit out of focus this morning," said the Giant-Alpecin rider. "That's normal I guess when you hear about these terrible things happening just a few hundred kilometres away from you. Just two hours before the start I thought ‘OK, we're racing anyway, I'm just going for it'.
"I went for it and it was a very, very good TT, but to win with more than a minute on Froome and anyone else was something I didn't expect. It gives me a lot of confidence."
The wind, which played its part on stage 11 and forced the shortening of the Mont Ventoux summit finish yesterday, chose not to relent and made conditions difficult – dangerous, even – for the riders on the time trial. It wasn't just the featherweight climbers getting blown around the road but heavier rouleurs like Dumoulin himself.
"It was quite dangerous – I followed [teammate] John Degenkolb in the car behind and I knew there was a moment in the race that was very dangerous," he said. "I also had some troubles there – I went from the right-hand side of the road completely to the left, but could hold it.
"Aside from that moment, it was windy and dangerous all the time. On the very fast descent I heard it was 110km in the car's meter."
Dumoulin explained how he used normal spokes instead of tri-spokes on the front wheel to make himself more stable on the bike and was rewarded with a time that he soon knew wouldn't be bettered.
"When I saw Froome's first intermediate time, which was already slower than mine, I knew it would be very difficult for him to be faster than me. My second part was also very good so I was quite confident quite early."
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