Tuesday's fourth stage of the Giro d'Italia up Mount Etna didn't provide a big shake-up at the top of the general classification, with just a select few big names losing time on the 22.8km summit finish.
Jumbo-Visma leader Tom Dumoulin was among the losers on the day, dropping 9km from the line and shedding over nine minutes come the finish, his GC 'comeback' already over during the first week.
The Dutchman said after the stage that he just didn't have the legs to compete on Etna, telling reporters at the top that "I have as little answers as you have".
The Giro is Dumoulin's first Grand Tour since the 2020 Tour de France, where he finished seventh as teammate Primož Roglič took second. Last season he put his career on hold through May, making this Giro his Grand Tour comeback.
Speaking to WielerFlits, Jumbo-Visma directeur sportif Marc Reef said that it's too early to write Dumoulin off as a GC rider despite his bad showing on Etna.
"Today is much too early to draw a line under that," he told WielerFlits. "We'll analyse and discuss that later, and of course Tom will have an important voice as well.
"He showed that his condition isn't bad. We told Tom to take that with him for the rest of this Giro. First - keep calm, use the next days to reset, and then seize the moment."
Reef said that the team had drawn no further conclusions about what caused Dumoulin's struggles on Etna, not beyond the rider's initial assessment, in any case. He added that there will be further chances for Dumoulin during the race, where he's now likely to target stage victories and help his teammates.
"The conclusion remains what Tom himself indicated in his initial response," Reef said. "There's nothing to blame him for. He's worked hard for this. His preparation wasn't optimal but the last three weeks at altitude were good.
"Now, he has to maintain his confidence, albeit in the knowledge that a classification isn't possible anymore. But that hard work shouldn't go to waste. There will be other opportunities in this Giro and we'll fight for them."
Jumbo-Visma's other top climbers in Italy, Tobias Foss and Sam Oomen, also shedded time on Etna, the pair both finishing alongside Vincenzo Nibali at 2:15 behind the main GC group. Reef acknowledged that challenging for a podium isn't likely anymore but said that top 10 placings could still be on the cards.
"Our plans for this Giro do not change that much. With Tobias Foss and Sam Oomen we're still aiming for a good GC here. That's important now," he said.
"They'll go for the best possible classification. A podium place is no longer possible but perhaps that wasn't a realistic goal beforehand. A top-10 place is also a ranking. We have seen in recent years that, despite a bad day in the early stages, we can progress later on."
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Daniel Ostanek is production editor at Cyclingnews, having joined in 2017 as a freelance contributor and later being hired as staff writer. Before Cyclingnews, he was published in numerous publications around the cycling world, including Procycling, CyclingWeekly, CyclingTips, Cyclist, and Rouleur, among others. As well as reporting and writing news and features, Daniel runs the 'How to watch' content throughout the season.
Daniel has reported from the world's top races, including the Tour de France, and has interviewed a number of the sport's biggest stars, including Egan Bernal, Wout van Aert, Remco Evenepoel, Mark Cavendish, and Anna van der Breggen. Daniel rides a 2002 Landbouwkrediet Colnago C40 and his favourite races are Strade Bianche and the Vuelta a España.
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