So much for a low-key opening week, huh? The received wisdom had said we would make it to the first rest day with minimal time separating the favourites. Not only is the gap between the maglia rosa and the rest bigger than its been at this point in proceedings in almost 25 years, but we’re already one big name down.
From a parcours perspective, as we talked about last week, it made sense for Tom Dumoulin to put at least most of this season’s eggs in the Giro basket. Even with Roglič showing all the signs of being a champion-in-waiting, Dumoulin – a rider with a Grand Tour victory already to his name – still had a better chance than one who had yet to claim his first.
But even before the opening stage it was clear that something was not quite right. And not in an “he’s going in undercooked because it’s a long way to Courmayeur” kinda way. Head or legs, it was impossible to tell, but when Dumoulin said he wasn’t where he thought he should be, we were predisposed to believe him. Still, few expected his time-trial to be beaten by Nibali and Yates, let alone matched by super climber, Superman López.
Can you see where we’re going with this?
Tom Dumoulin clearly prefers the Giro d’Italia to the Tour. Plenty in the peloton do. That he even took the start on Wednesday despite his GC ambitions having evaporated in an instant shows how committed he is to the Corsa Rosa. But it’s not the biggest race in cycling.
We know Dumoulin was likely to be going to the Tour de France anyway but, like last year, it would have been as an optional extra. An afterthought. That might have helped in a way, by relieving him some of the pressure that only comes with the Tour, but it also left many of us wondering what might have been had he given it everything he’d got.
Although he’s led his team there in the past, he has still never started a season with the Tour de France GC as his number one goal: In 2016 he was targeting the Olympic time-trial; 2017 was about the Giro and the Worlds; last year he hedged his bets.
That still won’t be the case in two months time but, after recovering, reflecting and regrouping, presuming there’s nothing seriously wrong with his knee, Dumoulin stands to arrive in Brussels in the best shape he’s ever been to make a concerted crack at the Tour.
It rather throws Sunweb’s strategy into flux. Poor old Michael Matthews and Wilco Kelderman will have fewer personal opportunities than they would have been hoping for. But a fully fit Tom Dumoulin is perhaps the only rider capable of competing with Chris Froome (who isn’t on his own team) as he begins his quest for a fifth Tour de France. We’re not calling Dumoulin’s Giro DNF a blessing in disguise, but who won’t want to watch that?