Dumoulin had not previewed the steep ramps in Italy’s Friuli-Venezia Giulia region. The Dutchman was caught off guard with the closing climb to stage 14 where Chris Froome (Sky) ruled, claiming his first stage win in the Giro d’Italia.
“It was brutal,” Dumoulin said while warming down.
“It was the hardest [climb] I ever did. It was even harder than I expected.”
“The fans? They definitely cheered me on. It’s cool.”
Dumoulin remains second overall behind Simon Yates (Mitchelton-Scott), but slipped behind to 1-24 minutes, finishing fifth today behind Froome.
The tall rider, world champion time triallist, drifted backwards in the favourites’ group as the road shot upwards. However, instead of losing buckets of time like smaller climbers Fabio Aru (UAE Team Emirates) and Davide Formolo (Bora-Hansgrohe), Dumoulin managed his ride as if pacing through a long time trial.
When he crossed the line at 1,730 metres, he did so only 37 seconds after Froome’s celebration.
“I’m satisfied. I did well. I paced myself, I got everything out of it, so you can never be unsatisfied, I guess,” Dumoulin explained.
“It was good, but I was never able to stay with the real first riders and so I lost again a little bit of time. I’m not the very strongest uphill but I’m close. It’s like that.
“It’s still OK, but there’s a lot of mountain stages yet to come so if it stays like this uphill in every mountain stage [losing time] then I’ll definitely not win the Giro d’Italia.”
Dumoulin became the first Dutchman to win the Giro d’Italia in its 100 years in 2017. He remains a 2018 favourite with the 32.4-kilometre time trial on the horizon, on Tuesday in Rovereto.
Froome, who rebounded well today after crashing and losing time early in the Giro, also is a favourite.
“It was very impressive, and I don’t know if this was just one good day for him or that he keeps improving in the coming week,” Dumoulin said of Froome.
“If he keeps improving, then he’s definitely in contention.”