The Dutchman rolled to the black Sunweb team bus still in the famous maglia rosa, but technically not in it after losing 1-09 minutes and slipping to 38 seconds behind new race leader Nairo Quintana (Movistar) on the 15-kilometre climb in Italy’s northeast.
“I realised at kilometre zero today was going to be a bad day. As soon as I sat on the bike this morning I realised,” Dumoulin said.
“I hope this was my bad day and not the beginning of the end.”
He rolled on his bike trainer surrounded by journalists, around one-third of them from the Netherlands. Tired, he asked that the questions were all in English to save himself answering the same questions twice.
A tranquillity seemed to emanate from him. The jersey and lead slipped away, but he still sat second overall and has the time trial ahead after one more mountain day to Asiago on Saturday.
Perhaps today was just that karma that that Vincenzo Nibali (Bahrain-Merida) talked about during their war of words after stage 18?
“It seems to be! If this is the karma then it’s good, if this was my bad day and I have good legs tomorrow then I’m happy,” Dumoulin said.
“I had really bad legs today and if I limited my losses today to this then it isn’t so bad after all. Of course, I would’ve hoped for more, I would’ve hoped for a good day.
“No, this is not a relief to lose the jersey, this is a bad day. I’m happy that I limited my losses and I’m happy that the team was really one behind me, especially Simon Geschke on the last climb was amazing.”
From the early kilometres in San Candido, Dumoulin clearly suffered. He sat too far back in the peloton – some say he stopped for a urine break, but he did not – and Movistar for Quintana and Bahrain-Merida for Nibali exploited the “rookie mistake.”
“I made a rookie mistake from the beginning to sit in the back of the bunch when we went into the downhill,” he continued.
“With my bad legs, I needed to go to the max to come back on the climb in the middle of the stage, so that was already unnecessary.
“In the final, I tried to limit my losses, I did really well. Luckily the team was really strong today! They had to save me a couple of times! I really have to thank them. Otherwise it would’ve been worse for me today. I just had bad legs.”
Dumoulin looked at the bright side. Without the leader’s jersey, he could return with his team in the bus to the hotel and not remain for the podium presentation and other protocols. He will recover more ahead of the 190-kilometre stage to Asiago and the final time trial to Milan on Sunday.
“It all depends on the legs tomorrow, we just have to see how my legs are going to be and how I hold up, and I hope it’s going to be all right,” he added.
“I also need good legs in the TT, if I have bad legs again like today, I can’t make up so much time, so it’s not to say that I need one minute or whatever then I’m safe. I just need to fight tomorrow and then we’ll see.”