Tom Dumoulin said he is in worse form than the previous two years as he looks to the Giro d’Italia.
The Dutchman returned from altitude training to race in Liège-Bastogne-Liège, where he finished an underwhelming 50th place.
Dumoulin, winner of the 2017 Giro, returns to the Italian Grand Tour next month as he looks to follow up on his strong 2018 season.
Speaking after Liège, Dumoulin told Dutch broadcaster NOS (opens in new tab): “I worked very hard and achieved nothing. It’s a pity.
“I felt blocked all day.”
Reflecting on his form so far, he added: “It was not so bad in the last two years, but I am worse than in the last two years.”
Sunweb rider Dumoulin has ridden a similar programme to previous seasons, opening in the Middle East at the UAE Tour before heading to Tirreno-Adriatico, Milan-San Remo and then Liège.
His next race will be the Giro on May 11.
The 28-year-old rode a consistent 2018 season, finishing second in both the Giro and the Tour de France behind Team Sky’s Chris Froome and Geraint Thomas respectively.
Dumoulin faces tough competition in the Giro, as Colombian star Egan Bernal will lead Team Sky in Italy and looks to be in good form after he won Paris-Nice in March.
Jumbo-Visma’s Primož Roglič is another strong Giro contender, having won the UAE Tour and Tirreno-Adriatico overall, with multiple Grand Tour winner Vincenzo Nibali (Bahrain-Merida) also a threat.
Britain’s Simon Yates will also return to Italy this year after a bittersweet ride in last year.
The Mitchelton-Scott rider won three stages of the Giro and looked set to take home the maglia rosa, but dramatically fell out of contention on the penultimate mountain stage.
Yates’ team-mate Esteban Chaves will also return in a support role after a long recovery from illness.
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Alex Ballinger is editor of BikeBiz magazine, the leading publication for the UK cycle industry, and is the former digital news editor for CyclingWeekly.com. After gaining experience in local newsrooms, national newspapers and in digital journalism, Alex found his calling in cycling, first as a reporter, then as news editor responsible for Cycling Weekly's online news output, and now as the editor of BikeBiz. Since pro cycling first captured his heart during the 2010 Tour de France (specifically the Contador-Schleck battle) Alex covered three Tours de France, multiple editions of the Tour of Britain, and the World Championships, while both writing and video presenting for Cycling Weekly. He also specialises in fitness writing, often throwing himself into the deep end to help readers improve their own power numbers. Away from the desk, Alex can be found racing time trials, riding BMX and mountain bikes, or exploring off-road on his gravel bike. He’s also an avid gamer, and can usually be found buried in an eclectic selection of books.
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