Team Sunweb coach Marc Reef says it’s “possible” Tom Dumoulin could take the first maglia rosa of the Giro d’Italia, as the former race champion readies for another title bid, but admits it would be difficult to defend the jersey from start to finish.
Dumoulin last year won the opening individual time trial, a feat he could potentially replicate on Saturday when the Giro starts similarly in Bologna, Italy with an 8.2km test.
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“It is possible. Last year it was something like that in Israel and there he also took the pink jersey. I think he’s one of the competitors for Saturday,” said Reef.
“[Primož] Roglič has showed at Romandie that he’s in pretty good shape so he’ll also be one of the favourites. You have Simon Yates, who made quite a step in the time trials and won in Paris-Nice. He will also be, on a parcour like this, close.”
How Sunweb this time would manage having the maglia rosa in its stable so early in the race, if Dumoulin were to hypothetically take line honours on Saturday, remains to be seen.
The former time trial world champion last year beat Rohan Dennis by two seconds in the opener to wear pink. However, he surrendered it to Dennis after the Australian claimed bonuses in intermediate primes on stage two.
“We didn’t put in an effort to get it back at that moment, but it depends on what the situation is in the beginning. It’s a bit difficult to say, OK we are going to defend it the whole way. We just have a day-by-day approach,” Reef recalled.
The leader’s jersey didn’t grace Dumoulin’s shoulders again, but the star Dutchman carried onto finish second overall behind Chris Froome (Sky, now Ineos).
“I think the most important is that we would like to have it in the end! That’s our main goal,” Reef added.
“For sure we will respect the jersey — that’s the most important. From there we will look.”
The Giro has traditionally been a happy hunting ground for Dumoulin, who in three participations has finished outside the podium once – in 2016 when he abandoned during stage 11. He won the race title in 2017.
Dumoulin hasn’t made any major adjustments to his preparation for the Giro, which the 28-year-old will enter on the back of an altitude training camp. He finished sixth overall at the UAE Tour in February and was fourth overall at Tirreno-Adriatico.
“Tom is going fine. He had good preparation. He reached a pretty high level in the beginning of the year. For him, it’s a certain way. I don’t know if this is his biological system or something but it’s always difficult to reach a top, top level in March,” said Reef.
“But if you look at the results… He never had results like that in the beginning of the year and of course that gave a good feeling.
“Everything went well at high altitude camp and we believe his shape is spot on at the moment.”
The time trials that feature in the Giro (on stages one, nine and 21) may have drawn Dumoulin’s eye to the Grand Tour, but Reef says the race won’t necessarily be decided in any of them.
“Of course, the time trials are pretty decisive in this Giro. So already the first day but also stage nine and the last stage there is still something possible, but I don’t think on the last day and first day that the differences will be too big. The main TT will be I think, on stage nine, where the differences can be quite something.
“Then of course stage 14 and 16 are really decisive stages in my opinion. They’re the two important mountain stages,” he said.
Dumoulin’s performance at the Giro may influence whether he competes at the Tour de France in July, which he also finished second overall last season.
“It’s at the back of our heads and a good chance but we’ll take the decision again after the Giro,” said Reef.
“We know from two years ago when he won the Giro that he had a really stressful period afterwards with a lot of attention, moments where he had to go. Then to do the Tour was difficult. Last year it was possible because it was a different situation at that moment.”