Tom Dumoulin could become the first Dutchman since 1980 to win a Grand Tour if he can hold off Fabio Aru (Astana) in the Vuelta a Espana, but can his Giant-Alpecin team help him to glory?
Netherlands-based squad LottoNL-Jumbo offered their support to the German team, with their own aspirations in the race all but over, but directeur sportif Addy Engels turned them down.
Should Dumoulin hope to emulate Joop Zoetemelk, who won the Tour de France 35 years ago, he will have to cling on to a three second advantage over Aru with a team that is woefully inequipped to control the race in the mountains.
“We didn’t pick a team thinking that one of our riders would have the lead at this stage,” Engels told Spanish newspaper AS. “We wanted stage wins with Degenkolb and Tom. This situation exceeds our expectations.”
Inside Giant-Alpecin’s toolbox
With LottoNL-Jumbo’s best-placed rider, George Bennett, sitting in 31st the Dutch team said they’d gladly put some of their resources towards helping one of their countrymen to victory.
“That’s forbidden by the rules of the UCI, so we will support Tom to the extent of our capabilities and we won’t resort to any irregular strategy,” Engels added.
Giant-Alpecin will need to go head-to-head with the seven remaining members of the Astana team which is stacked with climbing domestiques, while the German team’s nine members are mainly suited to targetting sprint wins.
How LottoNL-Jumbo will now try to help Dumoulin will be interesting to see, but even with Lotto’s eight remaining men it will be a tough ask for the Dutch to prevail.