Dumoulin returns to Giro where he left off
The last time we were at the Giro d’Italia, on the final stage of the 2017 edition, Tom Dumoulin (Sunweb) put time into all his rivals during a Milan time trial to finish second on the stage and, more importantly, be crowned with the pink jersey.
Today’s stage in Jerusalem followed the same script, with Dumoulin again ending the day standing atop the podium adorned in the maglia rosa, this time having gone one better to win the time trial.
Of course, the circumstances of the two stages are very different – in Milan he rounded-off three weeks of racing to complete overall victory, whereas today is just the start of his mission to defend his title. But the signs are that he may be on course to do so.
Up until now Dumoulin had been enduring a frustrating season, but it appears he may be peaking just at the right time, claiming his first win of the year, and fourth career win at the Giro.
Given the reduced number of time trialling kilometres in this year’s route (in total 25km fewer than last year, with just one 34.2km long stage to come in week three) it was essential that Dumoulin maximises the amount of time he put into his rivals. He did so with aplomb, and has already positioned himself as the man to beat.
Froome loses time
Though it did not look to be too serious a fall, Froome nevertheless appeared to be handicapped by it, finishing 21st and losing significant time (37 seconds) to Dumoulin, while sporting a nasty wound visible on his leg.
Should he be worried about his overall ambitions? Much will depend on the extent of any injuries sustained. Froome has bounced back from worse opening time trials to win Grand Tours, most notably at the 2015 Tour, where he only managed 39th on a similarly short route in Utrecht.
But he has also performed much better, particularly the sixth place he managed in Dusseldorf at last year’s Tour.
There’s is a of course a long way to go until Rome, and history shows that it is unwise to draw too many conclusions from a Grand Tour’s opening time trial. But questions remain over Froome’s form, and now also potential injuries.
Encouraging rides for non-time trial specialist overall contenders
You’d have got long odds at the start of the day on pint-sized climbers Simon Yates (Mitchelton-Scott) and Domenico Pozzovivo (Bahrain-Merida) beating Chris Froome (Sky) in today’s time trial, but that’s exactly what happened.
Yates generally loses time to other GC contenders in time trials but sometimes pulls out a strong performance on shorter or hilly courses. In any case, seventh today, just 20 seconds down on Dumoulin, exceeded all expectations, and suggests he could be in the form for a serious GC challenge.
For Pozzovivo, a 10th place finish was even more encouraging. Were it not for all the time lost in time trials during last year’s Giro, the Italian may well have made the podium; so to come through the first stage against the clock not just limiting his losses to Dumoulin to 27 seconds, but actually gaining time on most of his rivals, is a strong sign he may be set for the best Giro of his career.
Most GC riders left with lots of ground to make up already
On such a mountainous course, most of the GC contenders are climbing specialists with dodgy time trials. But even given their inferiority in the discipline, many will be licking their wounds after how much time they lost to Dumoulin today.
The favourites to fare worse were Fabio Aru (UAE Emirates), who lost fifty seconds while looking ragged on the bike, and Miguel Ángel López (Astana), another rider who crashed on the recon, which may explain how he managed to lose 56 seconds.
Esteban Chaves (Mitchelton-Scott) will be reasonably happy with his time, which was 46 seconds slower than Dumoulin, but suffers a blow to his leadership credentials by finishing some way behind teammate Simon Yates.
Thibaut Pinot (Groupama-FDJ) may still not be delivering on the time trial potential he showed when he started posting top times in 2016, but still produced a solid result to finish sixteenth, losing 33 seconds.
That’s quicker than Davide Formolo (Bora-Hansgrohe), who lost 40 seconds; George Bennett (LottoNL-Jumbo) at 49 seconds; Michael Woods (EF Education First) at 1-02; and Louis Meintjes (both EF Education First) at 1-08.
Rohan Dennis suffers cruel fate
Spare a thought for Rohan Dennis (BMC) today.
The Aussie posted the day’s fastest time in the early afternoon, long before any of the major favourites took their turn. As a result, he spent the rest of the day sat on the so-called ‘hot seat’ – a seat where the current leader of a time trial is obliged to stay while TV cameras record his every reaction to the live footage.
He looked on as riders challenged his time, but failed to beat it. The Katusha-Alpecin duo of Brit Alex Dowsett and surprise package José Gonçalves came closest early on, before Victor Campenaerts (Lotto-Soudal) posted a time literally fractions of a second slower.
Then, having remained on the hot seat for a whole two hours and fifteen minutes, Dennis was denied the reward of a stage win by the very last rider on the road, Tom Dumoulin, who bested his time by two seconds.
It was a cruel fate for Dennis, but with another time trial to come – and even a potential GC challenge on the cards – there’s plenty more for him to look forward to at this race.