Tom Dumoulin is hoping Team Sunweb can finally take their first win of the 2019 season at Tirreno-Adriatico during the opening 21.5km team time trial on Wednesday or at least limit their losses and so give the Dutchman a shot at overall victory.
Team Sunweb finished seven seconds behind Jumbo-Visma in the 16km team time trial at the recent UAE Tour, but Dumoulin was unable to stay with Primoz Roglic on the first mountain finishes of the Arabian race, losing 44 seconds. He lead the charge to line on the second mountain finish only for Roglic to sprint past him in sight of the line.
That was 10 days ago and Dumoulin appeared far more bullish as he sat at the top table of big-name Tirreno-Adriatico overall contenders on Tuesday afternoon.
“I’m here and I’m ready,” Dumoulin said, mixing smiles with a moment of seriousness about his intentions.
“It’s always nice to get a win. The first win opens things up, and it would definitely be nice to get a victory somewhere in the next two weeks.”
Last year, Team Sunweb lost 25 seconds to stage winner’s BMC Racing and lesser chunks of time to their other overall rivals. Dumoulin started the race with a cold and then abandoned after a crash during stage 4. He appeared to be far healthier and far more confident this year.
“That would probably be on the limit of being too much,” Dumoulin said of a 25-second time loss.
“It depends on the shape of the others and on who wins, but if a guy like Roglic takes 25 seconds, I don’t think I can take that back. If he then does everything right and if he’s in the shape he was in the UAE Tour, then I’m not going to take back 25 seconds.”
Team Sunweb have strengthened their team for 2019 to help Dumoulin target the Giro d’Italia and beefed up their line-up for Tirreno-Adriatico.
“I wouldn’t say stronger and I wouldn’t say weaker, it’s just different,” the Dutchman explained.
“We don’t know what to really expect but we have strong guys like me, Nikias Arndt and Søren Kragh Andersen. We have a couple of new guys like Nico Roche and Robert Power, while Chad Haga has replaced Lennard Kemna and he knows his TTT thing. We definitely have a strong team.”
The opening 21.5km team time trial up and down the straight Lido di Camaiore seafront will be a key first stage of Tirreno-Adriatico.
With no mountain finish in the central Italian Apennines, the week-long battle for the overall classification will be played out on the hilly stages and hilltop finishes on stage 2, 4 and 5 before the final 10km individual time trial gives the time trialists a last chance to pull back a few precious seconds.
It seems perfect for a former time trial world champion and Giro d’Italia winner like Dumoulin if he can fight for the 10, six and four second time bonuses awarded on the road race stages.
“It’s going to be a very close race I think. The TTT is going to play a big role. I hope we do very well so that we really have a shot for the GC,” Dumoulin said.
“It’s always nice to get an early season long climb in the legs, but this is the parcours, I also like racing on a course like this. The Le Marche region is very difficult. Maybe not difficult enough to really go one-on-one like on a big mountain finish, but I love to race there.”
Dumoulin picked Roglic and Julian Alaphilippe (Deceuninck-QuickStep) as his favourites due to their recent show of form and ability to fight for time bonuses, but warned anything can happen during the seven stages between the Tyrrhenian and the Adriatic coasts.
I wouldn’t say there’s one big favourite, but for sure Roglic and Alaphilippe have shown some incredible form in the last two weeks. But I think the five guys on the table are all able to win this race and maybe a couple more,” he said, including himself in the list of favourites.
“Anything can happen. Tirreno-Adriatico is a tricky race. You have to do everything right in order to win it. It’s a game of seconds.”