Tom Dumoulin (Team Sunweb) had high expectations for the cobbled stage to Roubaix in the Tour de France, but the Dutch rider's hopes of putting time into his rivals were not realised. The 2017 Giro d'Italia champion mostly blamed the headwind and the race circumstances for that.
"I'm mainly disappointed. I wanted to come out of this stage as the winner, maybe not the stage winner but certainly by gaining time," Dumoulin said while warming down on the rollers at the Sunweb team bus in Roubaix. "That didn't work out. This didn't turn out to be the stage I hoped it would be.
"It was really hard but the headwind made it difficult. The GC riders were keeping an eye on each other. The headwind is partly to blame. The racing style is different compared to Paris-Roubaix, too. I had really good legs but it was super hard to make the difference here,"
Dumoulin was asked if these stages weren't too dangerous, especially since there weren't major time gaps between the overall contenders. "Then you can cancel all stages, even the mountain stages because things can go wrong out there too. No, I like this."
Before the race, Dumoulin said that he looked forward with excitement and fear to the Roubaix stage. When asked if the Roubaix stage lived up to his expectations, Dumoulin shook his head. "No, the sensations were as good as anticipated but I hoped that there would be gaps between the GC riders and that didn't happen.
"On one sector [sector 5] I went full gas, giving everything I had. There were gaps everywhere in the peloton. We were ahead with a nice group. It was nice to see but the headwind makes it really hard to push through. Then everybody starts thinking and the pace drops. I'm disappointed about that.
"Among the GC riders, I was the strongest today, or at least one of the strongest."
Dumoulin was with world champion Peter Sagan during his attempt to break away, but he didn't feel that the Bora-Hansgrohe rider holding anything back. "He wanted to go but it was very hard. The race circumstances didn't allow for it to happen."
Deep into the finale, Dumoulin tried once more to accelerate away from the peloton on pavé sector 3 at only 20 kilometres from the finish but that move also wasn't successful. Shortly afterwards, the decisive breakaway was formed with eventual winner John Degenkolb, Greg Van Avermaet and Yves Lampaert. "I started this stage with the goal of making the difference. Then you've got to try," Dumoulin said.
It was like heading to a bunch sprint for 50 kilometres
Most of the other GC riders finished in the same time as Dumoulin, with only Rigoberto Uran losing almost two minutes. Early on, a crash ended the race for Richie Porte (BMC), one of the top favourites for the race. The crash occurred in the first ten kilometres of the race and Dumoulin said he was riding near Porte when he crashed. "I was just on the left side of that crash. It's a big blow for him. He's a good bloke. It's just not happening for him."
The nervousness during the first part of the race took a toll on Porte but Dumoulin also expressed his annoyance. "The first 50 kilometres were nuts. It was horrendous. I hated cycling for 50 kilometres. It was like heading to a bunch sprint for 50 kilometres in a row. Not fun," Dumoulin said. "Afterwards everybody was getting tired but I didn't. My teammates did a super job. It was a good race but in the end, there's no difference."
Some riders, like Romain Bardet, ran into a lot of mechanical trouble on the way to Roubaix. Dumoulin was spared from that sort of issues. "I was once behind a crash. I don't know where but it was one of the earlier pavé sectors. I had to do an effort to bridge back up. I didn't puncture or have mechanicals. I noticed that Bardet punctured a couple of times. They'll have to check on their tyre supplier. Apart from that, I didn't hear much. I knew most GC riders were in my group."
Dumoulin was asked what he thought about the victory of his former teammate, John Degenkolb. The German rider won his first stage in the Tour de France, more than two years after a severe crash during a team training camp in Calpe. "This is very important for him. Since his big crash at the training camp, when he was still riding in our team, he never managed to get back on a really high level. He was unable to believe in himself, I think. Maybe that's back now."
Straight after the stage, riders were due to fly to the Alps where the would be able to enjoy the first rest day. On Tuesday, the GC riders will have to get their climbing legs ready because the three subsequent stages have serious mountains. "The first three days after the rest day will be all or nothing. Then we will know who's good and who's not good. Today, it wasn't possible to see that. This is not to be compared with a mountain stage."
After stage 9, Dumoulin is 15th in the general classification at 2:03 from race leader Greg Van Avermaet and at 1:20 from Geraint Thomas (Team Sky).