Dumoulin will try to limit his losses to the better climbers in the coming Giro d'Italia mountain stages, but how much time could he afford to be behind before the final time trial?
The Dolomites remain, but Giro d’Italia race leader Tom Dumoulin (Sunweb) looks further ahead to the final day’s time trial to Milan and wonders how much he can afford to lose to the others beforehand and still win the race’s pink jersey.
Cycling Weekly asked those at the race what they thought the time trial-strong Dutchman could gain on his rivals in the final 29.3km time trial.
Dumoulin leads Nairo Quintana (Movistar) by 31 seconds and Vincenzo Nibali (Bahrain-Merida) by 1-12 minutes. He could lose time in the coming three mountain stages and still possibly claw back time on the other contenders racing from Monza’s Formula One track to Milan.
“They have the math for time differences and stuff, but after three weeks with a final week like this anything can happen,” Dumoulin’s American team-mate Chad Haga said.
“The other GC men may just be fresher. It could come down to that. No gap is too big for us. How much can he afford to be behind? I don’t know, a minute and a half? Anything around there. He’ll be fired up for it. It suits him much better than Nairo.”
In the Giro’s long 39.8-kilometre time trial through the Sagrantino vineyards, Dumoulin rode 2-53 into Quintana and took the race lead. He gained 2-07 on Nibali and 2-42 on Frenchman Thibaut Pinot (FDJ), who sits in fourth overall.
“One minute,” Sunweb’s Simon Geschke added. “Yes, in the third week it’s different for everyone, also for him. It’s a question if he’ll dominate in the last time trial, as well. The best would be if he was still in pink on the last day, but it’ll be extremely hard.
“Tom is right up there. For me, he’s more a Grand Tour rider than he is a one-day racer. This is the first time [he’s aimed for GC], not really the first time, but two years ago he was strong the whole three weeks, but now he’s even better.”
“I hope he’s not down heading into the time trial,” explained team-mate Laurens Ten Dam. “You never know, the last time trial in a big tour. He could take maximum one minute on those guys, I hope. He can take more, but he can also take less.
“You never know with Nibali and those guys. An exact number? If he’s one minute down, it’s possible for him.”
Dumoulin must try to limit his losses to better climbers Quintana and Nibali over the next mountain days. On stage 18, the race covers several passes at 2000 metres in the Dolomite Mountains.
Nairo Quintana, winner of the 2014 Giro, and the Movistar head sports director, José Luis Arrieta, say that they can still win if they have 30 to 40 seconds on Dumoulin heading into the final time trial.
The road runs flat, from 185 to 120 metres in elevation, with a few corners. The stage caps off the 100th edition of the Giro below the famous Duomo in Milan.
“If he recovered today [stage 17] [from his stomach problem], he goes into tomorrow [stage 18] fine. As it is, it’s all in favour of Dumoulin,” said two-time Giro winner Gilberto Simoni.
“He doesn’t need to worry. He needs to race calmly. Play off the fight between Nibali and Quintana, leave those two to make war.
“The time trial is in his favour, but if he needs to gain one minute, he won’t do it. One minute is at his limit. Nibali could hold him, so he needs to trail by one minute or less.”
“Nibali or Quintana needs one and a half minutes or more on Tom Dumoulin,” time trialist, Adriano Malori (Movistar) said.
“He won’t be able to gain so much on them in the final time trial because, yes it is shorter, but also it’s at the end of a Grand Tour and everyone is tired.”
Italian National Coach Davide Cassani and former cyclist Alessandro Petacchi said that Dumoulin can pull back two minutes on Nibali or Quintana in the final Milan time trial.