Tom Dumoulin will take the overall lead in the time trial tomorrow, and possibly win the Vuelta a España on Sunday, according to team bosses at the race in Spain.
Dumoulin sits 1-51 minutes behind overall leader Joaquím Rodríguez (Katusha) and another second closer to Fabio Aru (Astana) in second place. Today, the riders have a rest day and the insiders have time to think about what will happen over the 38.7-kilometres time trial in Burgos.
After the time trial, the leader must defend for four more days. Before the finish in Madrid on Sunday, the race only includes two mountain days, but neither are summit finishes.
“Dumoulin is holding up well. I expect him to do a super time trial. He can win the race," Team Sky principal Sir Dave Brailsford told Cycling Weekly.
"The exciting thing about a time trial this late into the race is that you don't know what impact the two weeks of racing will have. If they all were fresh, he would smash it. It's ideal for him.
“My money is on Dumoulin. He can do enough to win the race. It's for him to lose rather than the rest to win."
"Dumoulin has been a big surprise of this Vuelta," sports director José Arrieta said.
"No one expected him to climb as he has been doing. I think he can take two minutes in the time trial and the overall lead."
Dr Hutch talks us through the tactics of a long time trial
Katusha and Astana backed the men who currently hold the top two spots, but they are concerned about the Dutchman who placed third in the UCI World Championships time trial behind winner Sir Bradley Wiggins last year.
"Dumoulin within three minutes is still a threat," Katusha sports director, José Azevedo said.
"The time trial in the third week is different than in the first week. Everyone is so tired - if you are strong, you can defend better. 'Purito' [Rodríguez] has worked on his time trial and he is better than he was in 2010. It's going to be close."
Rodríguez has finished on the podium in all three grand tours but at 36 years old still is trying to win his first one. 25-year-old Aru, after placing second in the Giro d'Italia behind Alberto Contador in May, wants to win his first, as well. Both suffer when asked to ride alone on an aero bike.
"I don't think [Dumoulin] will be able to recover two minutes in the time trial," Astana team manager Giuseppe Martinelli said. "If he does, then we will have to go on the attack in the final mountain stages."
The riders themselves are unsure, or at least they are not saying who they think will win.
"Maybe he is the favourite to win this Vuelta," Rodríguez said of Dumoulin. "For me to win the Vuelta, he would need to fail and I would need to have a fantastic day."
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