Tom Dumoulin (Team Sunweb) endured a couple of fleeting scares on stage 2 of the Abu Dhabi Tour, but the Dutchman remains safely in position to challenge for overall victory when the race reaches Saturday's pivotal time trial and the following day's concluding summit finish at Jebel Hafeet.
The Dutchman came down in a crash with 60 kilometres of the stage remaining, and had only just been paced back up to the main peloton by his Sunweb team when the race was split into the three distinct echelons thanks to forcing by Movistar, Lotto Soudal and Katusha-Alpecin.
Dumoulin was among those caught in the second group on the road, for 20 kilometres or so, it seemed as though Fabio Aru, Rui Costa (UAE Team Emirates), Ilnur Zakarin (Katusha-Alpecin), Simon Yates (Mitchelton-Scott) and Alejandro Valverde (Movistar) were all going to enter the 12km time trial on stage 4 with a buffer of half a minute or more on the world time trial champion.
Circumstances, however, would play out in Dumoulin's favour. Eventual stage winner Elia Viviani was among those in the second group, and his Quick-Step Floors team were part of the coalition that helped to manage the deficit. Once the race turned into a headwind with 25 kilometres or so remaining, it was evident that the bunch would reform on the run-in to the line.
So it proved, and Dumoulin rolled home in 49th place, tucked comfortably in the main peloton. On reaching the finish, his thoughts turned to assessing the extent of the injuries sustained in his crash, and although the race hotel was a stone's throw from the line at Yas Beach, his first port of call was to the medical van parked in the finish area.
Dumoulin emerged shortly afterwards with a plaster applied to his left arm, but he told waiting reporters that his visit to the van had merely been precautionary. "I was just getting the cuts cleaned," Dumoulin explained, before climbing on his bike for the short ride back to the hotel.
A statement from the Sunweb later described Dumoulin's injuries as being "superficial." Directeur sportif Aike Visbeek, meanwhile, maintained that Dumoulin would not have missed the split had it not been for his earlier crash.
"We planned to be in the crosswind split but we as we entered we were a bit unlucky and Tom crashed," Visbeek said. "That made us momentarily lose concentration but we could get organised again. This meant that we were in the second group when the race split but the guys did a really good job bringing Tom back to the first group."
Dumoulin and his teammate Wilco Kelderman both lie 10 seconds down on the overall leader Viviani. The Sunweb duo – and all of the overall contenders – conceded three seconds to Valverde, who picked up a time bonus at the final intermediate sprint, but it will feel like small change after such a fraught final hour of racing.
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