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World Championships: Dumoulin sees Dennis as biggest rival for time trial title

Defending elite men's time trial world champion Tom Dumoulin says that Australia's Rohan Dennis is his biggest obstacle to retaining his title in Innsbruck, Austria, at the UCI Road World Championships on Wednesday.

The Dutchman said that, on paper at least, Dennis will be the rider to beat over the tough 52.5km course, but was keen to point out that things don't always go as expected.

"I still remember the World Championships in Richmond. Tony Martin, Dennis and I were expected to be on the podium, with just the finish order to be sorted out between us. In the end, none of us got a medal," Dumoulin said, according to Het Nieuwsblad.

He was referring to the 2015 Worlds in Virginia, which was won by Vasil Kiryienka ahead of Adriano Malori and Jérôme Coppel.

As to whether the he still has the form to defend his rainbow jersey in Innsbruck on Wednesday afternoon, having ridden to second place overall at both the Giro d'Italia and the Tour de France this year, Dumoulin said that taking a break has been an essential part of his preparation.

"For the first two weeks after the Tour, I felt really bad," Dumoulin said. "To relax, I went on vacation with my girlfriend for a week. I took my bike along, too, along, but the emphasis was mainly on good food and drinks.

"I also went to Siena for the Palio," said Dumoulin, referring to the famous house race that takes place twice a year in the Tuscan town, at the Piazza del Campo, where the Strade Bianche one-day race also finishes.

"It was amazingly cool. And a tip for your readers: put that horse race at number one on your bucket list," he said.

The newspaper pointed out that Dumoulin had only four opportunities to wear his rainbow jersey in races this season, and he picked the individual time trial at the Tour de France – the race's penultimate stage – as his 'favourite'.

Dumoulin won the stage, but only after first losing his skinsuit – with a replacement rushed to him just in time from Spain by his kit manufacturer – and then, due to a timing fault, thinking that Team Sky's Chris Froome had taken the victory, before the error was corrected.

He also revealed that he had spent time at a high-altitude training camp with 2017 – and now 2018 – women's time trial world champion Annemiek van Vleuten to prepare for the Worlds in Innsbruck.

"She didn't just follow my wheel," Dumoulin said of his compatriot. "Annemiek can ride hard, especially uphill. She could easily participate in the six-hour training sessions."

Belgium's Victor Campenaerts – the current European time trial champion – is Dumoulin's tip for the final podium spot, but again warned of the dangers of the prediction game.

"Of course he has a chance of winning a medal. He has a chance of winning the world title, too, even though his chances on paper are less likely than mine or Rohan's," Dumoulin said.

"But we all know that the paper may be in the bin by the end of Wednesday afternoon."

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