Tom Dumoulin not 'planning on defending' maglia rosa in early Giro d'Italia stages

Dumoulin surprised at the size of time gaps but not intending to add to his lead in upcoming stages

Dumoulin celebrates in pink after the opening time trial. Image: Sunada

Tom Dumoulin (Sunweb), winner of the Giro d'Italia stage one in Jerusalem, says he will not try to defend the famous pink jersey in the days ahead.

The Dutch world champion won the time trial stage near the Old City ahead of Rohan Dennis (BMC Racing) and put 37 seconds into Chris Froome (Sky).

"It's nice to be in the maglia rosa, but it will be hard to keep it for three weeks," Dumoulin said. "We aren't planning on defending it every day so we will see what we do with that in the coming days."

Dumoulin won the decisive time trial in 2017 and rode well in the Giro's mountains. On the final day in Milan, he overtook pink jersey wearer Nairo Quintana (Movistar) to win the race overall. He was the first Dutchman to do so in the race's 100 editions.

Dumoulin began the 101st edition with a bang, covering the 9.7-kilometre course in 12-02 and toppling the Australian Dennis who had been in the hot seat - also putting helpful seconds into his most serious rival, Sky's Froome.

"It's a bit of a surprise that the difference is so big, I expected differences, of course, maybe they'd be bigger in a flat or easier time trial stage," Dumoulin said.

"This one was really challenging and it suited me very well. I'm technically really good on the TT bike. [The efforts were very] full gas and then recover, full gas and recover. That's exactly made for me."

With the ride, Dumoulin is firmly in the pink jersey lead. The first monotonous stage is next week, the summit finish to Mount Etna. Perhaps there, a rival like Simon Yates (Mitchelton-Scott), only 20 seconds down, could upset Dumoulin and take the lead – and with it the race responsibility.

>>> Giro d'Italia route

As it is, Sunweb will need to ride daily at the front around leader Dumoulin. In the final kilometres, sprint teams like Quick-Step should take up the reins.

Dumoulin's team was criticised and appeared underpowered at times in 2017. In 2018, the team comes to the Giro with slightly more firepower to help Dumoulin defend his place and win the Giro when the race ends on May 27 in Rome.

"It's a balanced team but not [the] best team. This year, I wouldn't say we have [a] better or worse team, we have a good team again. [Our] climbing strength [is] a bit better than last year," Dumoulin said.

"We will see how it evolves and the shape of everyone. We cannot compete with Orica or Sky, like last year, [but then] it all worked out. We have a really strong team. I am really confident we can pull it off again."

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Gregor Brown

Gregor Brown is an experienced cycling journalist, based in Florence, Italy. He has covered races all over the world for over a decade - following the Giro, Tour de France, and every major race since 2006. His love of cycling began with freestyle and BMX, before the 1998 Tour de France led him to a deep appreciation of the road racing season.