Dutchman Tom Dumoulin (Giant-Alpecin) is in Italy to win the 2016 Giro d'Italia, say his top rivals and insiders after he rode away and gained more time on the overall favourites in the race's first summit finish to Roccaraso today.
Tim Wellens (Lotto-Soudal) won the stage solo. Dumoulin attacked around the final three kilometres of the climb to Roccaraso climb in Abruzzo and gained seven seconds on Esteban Chaves (Orica-GreenEdge) and 21 over top favourite Vincenzo Nibali (Astana).
Dumoulin now leads the race by 26 seconds over Jakob Fuglsang (Astana), 28 on Ilnur Zakarin (Katusha), 41 on Alejandro Valverde (Movistar), 44 on Chaves and 47 on Nibali. And on the horizon on Sunday, the Giro organiser has planned a long 40.5-kilometre time trial that will suit Dumoulin.
"He's saying that he's not going to drop until he gets dropped, which also means, 'I'm here racing, I'm professional, I know I can go far, and if one day I have a crisis, I'll call it over.' But I don't think he's going to have a crisis," Team Sky's Nicolas Roche explained.
"He's a serious contender for the GC. He showed last year in the Vuelta that he can handle the pressure and be there when it counts. That time trial is really favourable for him, if he can manage this type of speed on the climbs and put a bit of an advantage on his opponents, unless he has a massive hunger flat, I think he's going to be up there for a good GC."
Dumoulin surprised many insiders in the Vuelta a España by winning a stage ahead of Chris Froome (Sky), time trialling in the race lead and defending it until the final mountain day. Now 25 years old, he says he has more experience leading a team in a grand tour, even if he built his season to win the time trials in the Giro and then the one in the Rio de Janeiro Olympics.
"We consider him like Valverde and Nibali, and after today more than those two because that was a finish suited to Valverde, but in the end, he was there with Landa," Sky sports director, Dario Cioni said.
"Dumoulin took advantage of Nibali's early attack and did so well. Then in the Chianti time trial, he could move way ahead in the GC."
"He says that the classification does not interest him much, that he doesn't think about it. Yeah, for sure, to have that thought every day ends up being heavy."
Dumoulin was isolated in the final kilometres of the climb after Giant-Alpecin worked early on. He took advantage of Team Sky and Movistar's work to pull back Nibali and to launch his counter-attack.
"If you are close for winning the Giro d'Italia, you want to continue. No? It's normal," Chaves explained. "For sure, for sure, you can count on him."
"For sure he is here for the GC," Orica sports director, Matt White added. "A guy of his class is not going to let the race lead go. It's a very important bike race and he has got super legs. He was always coming here for the GC. It's his last big race before the Olympics. He will go deep here."
Nibali plans to stop Dumoulin if he gains more time. Nibali said, "He has great condition, but his team is not in the same condition. We have to see when we arrive to those hard stages, with many climbs, and maybe I'll attack from far out."
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