Dutchman Tom Dumoulin saw from Bradley Wiggins that a time trial rider can switch to grand tours if the pieces are in place. After a 'surprising' first two weeks, Dumoulin sits fourth overall in the Vuelta a España with a long time trial on the horizon.
Team Giant-Alpecin hopes its 24-year-old can hold on today and recover as much as possible in Wednesday's 38.7-kilometre time trial in Burgos. Dumoulin currently sits 1-25 minutes behind overall leader, Italian Fabio Aru (Astana)
"He showed that if you can ride good TTs and do something about your weight, then you have a good power to weight ratio," Dumoulin told Cycling Weekly.
"He can win the Tour de France with it. It showed me that it's maybe possible in the future to go for more in grand tours, but for now, I'm taking it as it comes."
Dumoulin, five-foot-nine and 70 kilograms, stood in his socks and casual kit outside Giant's bus. Yesterday on the summit finish to Sotres, he drifted back in the final two kilometres but coolly managed the gap to Fabio Aru and Joaquím Rodríguez (Katusha).
Just to be in this position fighting for a podium finish in Madrid when the race finishes on September 13 is a surprise.
Dumoulin was known more for his time trial riding before the Vuelta. He placed third in the world championships behind Wiggins and Tony Martin in Ponferrada last year. He won the Eneco Tour with his time trial, and placed third overall in the Tour de Suisse.
"Not at all, I didn't think about it," he added. "I could have never imagined. I prepared well at altitude, I know that's working well for me, but to be in the GC after two weeks is something I couldn't imagine."
"It was a big surprise for us," said sports director, Addy Engels.
"For a long time, it was even uncertain even if he could start the Vuelta because the shoulder was so bad after crashing out in the Tour de France. The goal was just to race the Vuelta and rebuild his form for the last part of his season, trying for some stage wins and then worlds. However, already, from the second stage we saw his shape was outstanding."
"If you can ride podium or top five in a grand tour," added Dumoulin, "you shouldn't stop yourself because of the upcoming world championships or something."
Watch: Vuelta a Espana essential guide
Over the winter, he and the team will talk about 2016. How much he should change his programme to fit in stage race goals with time trialling, keeping in mind he wants to win the gold medal at the Olympics later in the summer.
"I wouldn't say it's impossible for him to do GC in a grand tour in the future," said Engels. "He has a perfect TT and can climb very well. In that respect, he looks like Wiggins.
“I don't want to compare too much because Wiggins won the Tour and has more wins, but in terms of GC, there are similarities, they both have very good time trials and can climb well."
Thank you for reading 20 articles this month* Join now for unlimited access
Enjoy your first month for just £1 / $1 / €1
*Read 5 free articles per month without a subscription
Join now for unlimited access
Try first month for just £1 / $1 / €1