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There were questions asked of Tom Dumoulin on the slopes of Mount Etna, and then more at the finish line. He didn’t appear to know how to answer either.
“I’m just not feeling good,” he said just past the finish line he crossed nearly nine minutes behind the rest of the GC favorites. His voice was muted, his head down, as he cast about for reasons why.
“It’s like that,” he said. “I worked hard to get here in the best shape possible and, yeah, it’s… yeah.”
It’s been five years since Dumoulin won his Giro and two seasons since he last raced a Grand Tour. In that time he removed himself entirely from the sport for more than half a year, citing physical and mental fatigue.
Dumoulin made his Giro goals clear in April: he wanted to race two good time trials and aim for the general classification. The first Grand Tour start in two years raised questions about his intentions and whether he could deliver on them. Those questions, at least in part, are now answered.
Reporters probed. Is there anything wrong? Sickness, injury? Dumoulin shook his head.
“Yeah everything’s OK, I just don’t have the legs at the moment, I don’t know why,” he said. “I don’t know… but, it is like it is.”
Dumoulin finished an encouraging if somewhat disappointing third in the Giro’s stage 2 time trial. He felt “good and strong,” he said that day, even if it wasn’t enough for a victory. The ride set him up for a run at GC, sitting just behind Simon Yates (BikeExchange-Jayco) and ahead of Richard Carapaz (Ineos Grenadiers).
Warning signs were present well before the Giro kicked off. After spending the winter in Colombia, Dumoulin had an anonymous classics season, telling AD last month that he wasn’t yet at his best self. He went to Tenerife for an altitude camp in the weeks before the Giro, preparing as all Grand Tour contenders must these days. “I will do the necessary work, without worrying whether it will be enough or not,” he said. “We will see all of this in the first week of the Giro.”
We have now seen, and GC ambitions are no longer in the cards. There remains one more target, though: the 17.4 kilometer time trial in Verona on stage 21. Between now and then, more questions linger.