He went close to victory in last year’s Vuelta a España, holding the red jersey until the final mountain stage before dropping to sixth.
However expectations that Tom Dumoulin might try to use his newfound Grand Tour GC ability to challenge in the Tour de France have been dampened by the news that this season, the Giro d’Italia rather than the Tour will be his three week race of choice.
The reason? The Olympic Games in Rio, and his aim of challenging for the time trial there.
“I grew up with the Olympics and to me that’s by far the biggest sporting event in existence,” he told De Telegraaf, speaking at the Giant-Alpecin team presentation in the Italian Embassy in Berlin.
“Once in the four years I get the chance to go there for the medals and in Rio there is a flat, technical course that suits me. So it might be one chance in twelve years. I would not pass up that possibility.”
The Tour is undoubtedly cycling’s biggest race but, at 25 years of age, he knows that he likely needs more time to challenge for a podium place there.
Besides, he has accepted that the Giro is likely the best route to being in sparkling form in Rio.
Dumoulin admitted that he first considered the Tour might be the best build-up. “I’m often very strong after a Grand Tour,” he said. “However, the past year has proven that I respond very well to training and altitude training.
“In the Vuelta a España I started with only seven weeks of training in the legs. That worked out very well. We have several scenarios towards Rio 2016. It now seems that the Tour de France is not going to be one of them.”
In his absence, Giant-Alpecin will likely focus on French climber Warren Barguil for the general classification and others such as John Degenkolb for stage wins. Marcel Kittel departed the team for Etixx – Quick-Step and so the team will need to take a different approach in 2016.
As for the Giro d’Italia, Dumoulin doesn’t want to think of battling for the final pink jersey at this point in time. In fact, he said that the GC in three week races might be put to one side for a year, with time trials instead the focus.
“But you never know how a race is going to go. I will go into the Giro with the same ambition as I did last year in the Vuelta a España, and there I fought for the final victory until the penultimate day.”
Adopting such an approach should take the pressure off Dumoulin, although he doesn’t rule anything out either. The race will start with a 9.8 kilometre time trial in Apeldoorn, making it possible for the Dutchman to end up in the race lead on home soil.
After a number of flat and medium mountain stages, there is a 40.4 kilometre race against the clock in Chianti; this too could put him in pink, or, if he is already wearing it, cement his lead.
The big mountains don’t come until later in the race and the look of the parcours will likely encourage him.
Right now, though, he states that his sole goal is to arrive at the start in top form. From there, he’ll take things day by day and decide in that way if a GC campaign remains realistic or not.
As regards the Olympic time trial, he’s also reluctant to play up his chances. He knows he’s one of the best time trialists in modern cycling, but says there are no guarantees.
“I’ve still never been time trial world champion and never won a time trial in the Tour de France,” he pointed out. “So, Rio is certainly a very big challenge for me.”