Dumoulin still can’t believe Vuelta performance, Degenkolb says sensations are good before world championships

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Tom Dumoulin’s palmares point towards a rider with plenty of talent, but for many his Vuelta a España performance has been unexpected. The rider too feels this way, saying on the first rest day that he can’t quite believe how things have turned out for him.

“I am very satisfied with the course of the race so far, as it has turned out far above my expectations,” the Vuelta race leader said. “Especially my stage win was unbelievable and very special for me. Also the red jersey is great and a really nice bonus.

“If someone would have told me two weeks ago that I would win a stage with an uphill finish and have the leader’s jersey on the first rest day, I would have said he was insane.”

On Sunday Dumoulin beat Tour de France champion Chris Froome and the other climbers in the race to win the ninth stage. Wednesday’s race in Andorra is far tougher, with six categorised climbs packed into a relatively short 138 kilometres.

He knows it will be a massive test of his race leadership.

“Tomorrow we will have the hardest stage of this Vuelta, and at the finish we will know more. Normally I would say that it is too much for me, but stage nine was also not typical, so we will see.

“We showed yesterday and the days before yesterday that we have a strong team that takes responsibility as well, and we can be proud of that. We will fight for it and go full gas to the finish line, and then we can draw conclusions.”

Dumoulin is one element of Giant-Alpecin’s push for results in the race. Another is John Degenkolb, who is one of the best sprinters in the field.

He’s gone close in the opening third of the race, netting placings of second, second and third. He’s frustrated not to convert those opportunities into wins.

“I’m a bit sad that my stage victory is still missing. I was really close a few times, but I am confident that the win will come,” he said.

“Now a lot of climbing is coming up, so I’ll just have to survive. After that there will be some sprint opportunities as well, and we hope to win more stages. There will be opportunities until the closing stage in Madrid, which we won last year.”

Whichever way the race plays out for him, its also a foundation block for a huge goal: chasing the rainbow jersey later this month in Richmond, USA.

“I am feeling better and better,” he said, “which is also a good sign ahead of the world championships.”

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