Dutchman Tom Dumoulin believes that with a stacked field at the Abu Dhabi Tour it will be difficult to achieve a result even in the top ten, despite the course only containing one significant climb.
The Team Sunweb rider, who is taking to the start line for the first time this season, pointed out that the field in Abu Dhabi contains a plethora of high-calibre general classification riders, including Nairo Quintana (Movistar), Bauke Mollema and Alberto Contador (Trek-Segafredo), Vincenzo Nibali (Bahrain-Merida), Fabio Aru (Astana) and Romain Bardet (Ag2r La Mondiale).
“It’s going to be difficult to get top ten with this field,” he said. “If you get top ten here then you might be top ten contender in a Grand Tour as well. It's also different to Tirreno-Adriatico - that’s one week's hard racing whereas this is three days of easy racing and one 30-minute all-out climb."
The Abu Dhabi Tour has only one hilltop finish on Saturday’s stage to Jebel Hafeet, which is just over one thousand metres high. Even that is preceded with 175km of almost entirely flat road. The other three stages are almost certain to be sprints.
“That’s not something you’d normally do in the Giro which has fatigue and loads of climbs,” Dumoulin said.
He added that he has changed his preparation for the season this year spending two weeks at a training camp in South Africa
“I’m feeling good,” he said. “I’ve had two weeks training in South Africa in the same place as Chris Froome and Orica have been for the past few years already. Bling [new signing Michael Matthews] used to go there with Orica so he brought it up. And before that I was already feeling great so...
“I’m actually anxious to get the season going already.”
Watch: Tom Dumoulin's Giant Trinity time trial bike
However, Dumoulin played down the psychological boost the winner of the queen stage would get over their rivals come races later in the year.
“All the riders are here know in their mind that the most important races are coming,” he said. “This is a WorldTour race now so it is important to show up here ready - it’s not entirely a preparation race any more. But the big goals are still coming.”
Dumoulin is chasing GC glory at the Giro d'Italia this year, only the second year that he has focused his effort on riding for GC after a breakthrough performance at the Vuelta España in 2015, where he finished sixth.
At that race Dumoulin had been in the red leaders jersey at the start of the mountainous penultimate stage only to find himself isolated and worked over by his GC rivals and subsequently falling down the classification.
He started the Giro d’Italia in 2016 as one of the pre-race favourites, won the opening time trial and held the pink jersey for much of the first week but later dropped out of the race suffering from saddle sores during stage 11.
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