The Colombian of team Movistar will have to break the Dutch race leader’s grip on the pink jersey. With five mountain stages left and the final time trial to Milan, Sunweb’s Dumoulin leads by 2-41 minutes.
“I really don’t see a weakness in Tom, he’s going better than I imagined,” pre-race favourite Quintana said. “We need to see if he can hold that on the high and multiple passes to come. If he shows it, then he can win.”
Quintana sat at a small table in a cramped side room at Movistar’s hotel. He smiled often and spoke louder than normal, perhaps showing some of the confidence gained from winning the Vuelta a España last year over Chris Froome and becoming the first Colombian to win the Giro as he did in 2014.
The passes to come are high, 2000 metres and beyond, but the Giro ends with a 29.3-kilometre time trial that should give Dumoulin confidence.
Quintana said that he would need to claw back the 2-41 deficit and gain 30 to 40 seconds on Dumoulin to have a chance to win in Milan on Sunday.
“It’s a complicated situation for me now. It’s not gone how we hoped, but we always keep faith,” Quintana added.
“I have five days that are favourable for me more than the others. We also have a big team to deliver the goods.”
Dumoulin is taking his first serious stab at a Grand Tour. In 2015, he led the Vuelta a España by chance and nearly won, but crumbled on the final mountain stage under Astana’s relentless attacks. He dedicated 2016 to stage wins and the Olympics.
“That’s our hope that he [crumbles]! But until now he’s going well,” Quintana continued.
“Saturday on Oropa he showed strong. I think that he prepared well on the climbs and he’s going well. Our hope is that he doesn’t do so well when we get to those stages with many climbs.”
“We’ve only been over a third of the mountains in this Giro,” team manager said Eusebio Unzué, squeezed next to Quintana at the table.
“Tomorrow [stage 16], we are looking at 4000 metres or so of climbing, maybe Dumoulin will fall apart, but he’s made big steps. And in the time trials, he’s flying and defending well.
“He reminds me of Miguel Indurain, with the time trials and his consistency. He rides more on strategy than force, you saw that in the Vuelta. He’s a difficult rival.”
The Giro restarts on Tuesday with its queen stage that takes on the Mortirolo and the Stelvio. It climbs the famous high pass of the Stelvio twice before descending to the finish line in ski resort town of Bormio.