Sometimes the obvious decision is the most difficult one to take. Struggling with the effects of a saddle sore since late last week, Tom Dumoulin (Giant-Alpecin) began to feel during the day in Chianti that he was fighting a losing battle at this Giro d'Italia.
After sparkling in a first week that saw him spend six days in the maglia rosa, Dumoulin endured a wretched weekend in Tuscany, losing the overall lead on the road to Arezzo on Saturday, and then finding himself hampered by the wet conditions during his main objective on the Giro, the stage 9 time trial in Chianti.
By that point, Dumoulin's injury had become more persistent, and after losing 13 minutes and all hopes of a high overall finish at Sestola when the Giro resumed after the rest day, he abandoned the race at Piacenza d'Adige, 94 kilometres into Wednesday's stage 11.
"This morning, I knew already it would make very little sense and the first kilometres on the bike made me realise that it would make no sense," Dumoulin told Cyclingnews and a small group of reporters after changing aboard the Giant-Alpecin bus at the finish in Asolo. "I tried to help the team a bit until the feed zone, we were hoping to have a good break on the front so that Nikias Arndt could win today. That's all I could do today and then I went out in the feed zone."
Dumoulin's ailment, which he tactfully described as "an inflammation in my saddle area," flared up the day after his impressive attack on the Giro's first summit finish at Roccaraso, and contributed to his travails on the dirt climb of Alpe di Poti two days later. A saddle sore forced Sean Kelly out of the 1987 Vuelta a España while leading the race in the final week. Ten days from Turin and a quarter of an hour down on general classification, Dumoulin saw little reason to prolong the inevitable.
"I hoped it would recover a bit during the rest day but it didn't really. And yesterday's stage, 220 kilometres and very hard, really didn't make it any better," he said. "I thought that maybe two flat days would make it a little better but it didn't make any sense to continue. I would not have a chance to recover and I would only make it worse if I were to continue."
Tour de France a possibility before Rio 2016
Though Dumoulin briefly seemed to entertain thoughts of a high overall finish at the Giro after his attack at Roccaraso, the time trial at the Rio 2016 Olympics is the centrepiece of Dumoulin's season.
Dumoulin's provisional 2016 schedule had him pencilled in to ride the Tour de Pologne in July – sandwiched by two altitude training camps – as his final preparation race for the Olympics, but his early withdrawal from the Giro could prompt a rethink of his build-up to Brazil.
"I never said that I would definitely go to the Tour of Poland. We were always looking for a moment after the Giro to look back on the Giro and decide what to do," Dumoulin said in Asolo on Wednesday.
"We had two plans ready. One was the most likely, with altitude camps and Poland, and the other is to do the Tour de France, which was quite unlikely. Now it changes a bit, everything is open now. I just want to take a few days off and not think about cycling, and then we'll have a look after those few days at what we're going to do towards Rio."
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Barry Ryan is Head of Features at Cyclingnews. He has covered professional cycling since 2010, reporting from the Tour de France, Giro d’Italia and events from Argentina to Japan. His writing has appeared in The Independent, Procycling and Cycling Plus. He is the author of The Ascent: Sean Kelly, Stephen Roche and the Rise of Irish Cycling’s Golden Generation (opens in new tab), published by Gill Books.