Du­moulin’s pink jersey am­bi­tions go sky-high

New Straits Times - - Sport -

MONTEFALCO: Giro d’Italia leader Tom Du­moulin ad­mits train­ing at al­ti­tude may not be enough to stop Colom­bian ri­val Nairo Quin­tana re­claim­ing the pink jersey when the race hits the high moun­tains.

Du­moulin, the Olympic time trial sil­ver medal win­ner from Rio, cruised to vic­tory in the 10th stage time trial of the race on Tues­day to claim the ‘maglia rosa’ af­ter push­ing overnight leader Quin­tana down to sec­ond at 2min 23secs in ar­rears.

With Dutch com­pa­triot Bauke Mollema (Trek), French­man Thibaut Pinot (FDJ) and de­fend­ing cham­pion Vin­cenzo Nibali (Bahrain) all within three min­utes of Du­moulin’s lead, the scene is set for a thrilling fi­nale to the 100th edi­tion.

A year af­ter com­pa­triot Steven Krui­jswijk nar­rowly missed a third-place fin­ish, Du­moulin wants a shot at the pink jersey and has pre­pared specif­i­cally ear­lier this sea­son on two high­alti­tude train­ing camps — at the Sierra Ne­vada in Spain and Tener­ife — to hone his skills on the “long climbs.”

But af­ter fly­ing over a rolling, 39.8 km course in the Sa­grantino wine-grow­ing re­gion to fin­ish 49 sec­onds ahead of Bri­tain’s Geraint Thomas (Sky), he was quick to rein in his am­bi­tions.

“It’s a nice gap to go into the moun­tains, but like Nairo Quin­tana showed on (the ninth stage to) Block­haus, he’s the bet­ter climber, and a lot can hap­pen in the third week,” said Du­moulin, who won the open­ing stage time trial on home soil in Apel­doorn last year be­fore los­ing the pink jersey on stage eight.

“The last week will be very, very dif­fi­cult. Two and a half min­utes is noth­ing in the fi­nal week, we will see.”

Quin­tana, who said he felt “bit­ter” at los­ing the race lead, said: “Du­moulin was fly­ing, he’s a (time trial) spe­cial­ist. He could now be my big­gest ri­val.”

At last year’s Tour de France, Du­moulin un­der­lined his im­proved climb­ing prow­ess by win­ning a tough stage to Ar­calis in An­dorra.

On Sun­day, the Dutch­man capped a coura­geous fight­back on the climb to the sum­mit of Block­haus, over­tak­ing Ital­ian Nibali on the way, to fin­ish third at just 24secs be­hind Quin­tana — con­sid­ered the best climber on the race.

Du­moulin should be pushed to the limit on stages fea­tur­ing a suc­ces­sion of climbs, from stage 16 on­wards, and he said: “It will be the hard­est third week (of a race) I ever did. I will see how much of my time gap I can keep. But it will be very hard to keep this jersey un­til Mi­lan.”

But he added: “My plan from the be­gin­ning was to tar­get the gen­eral clas­si­fi­ca­tion in this Giro. I went on al­ti­tude train­ing camps this year, which is dif­fer­ent to how I pre­pared last year.

“Now, I’m do­ing less racing, more train­ing. Pre­par­ing for long climbs.” AFP

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