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‘I was quite far off my best level’: Tom Dumoulin Q&A

Peter Stuart
27 Feb 2019

The 2017 Giro winner talks about his plans for the Tour de France, racing the Hammer Series in Hong Kong and how to improve the Grand Tours

You’ve had a great few years at the Grand Tours since winning the Giro in 2017, and the Tour de France was within your reach last year. Will you be targeting it again in 2019?

Yes. Probably. I’m excited about the challenge, definitely, although I’m not sure the course suits me, so this far away we still can’t be 100% sure I’ll go to the Tour. [Dumoulin has since indicated he will be building his 2019 season around the Giro d'Italia, though hasn't ruled out riding the Tour too].

If I do go, though, I think it will be a really exciting race.

You could be the first Dutchman to win the Tour de France since Joop Zoetemelk in 1980 – does that offer you more motivation?

For sure, it would be great to break the winning streak of the Brits. But we seem to have quite a few strong Dutch General Classification contenders now.

It’s not only me, it’s Steven Kruijswijk, Bauke Mollema, Wout Poels… it’s almost getting out of hand!

Do you consider the Tour to be your favourite race?

No, the Giro is my favourite Grand Tour. That’s just because of the passion around it – it’s such an iconic race.

You can almost smell the passion in every part of the event, and that’s something I really like in this sport.

What has it felt like to go from a domestique TT specialist to suddenly being a General Classification contender and team leader?

It has been tough adapting, especially last year. It’s never easy to manage the attention but I feel like I’m getting used to it, and to my new role in the team.

You came second in the World Championship time-trial. Was that a good performance for you or do you think you could have done more?

The time-trial at the Worlds really wasn’t good for me. It was quite far off my best level. There’s no doubt that I could definitely have been closer to Rohan Dennis on my best form.

But it’s not fair to say that I could have beaten him on my best form, as that race never took place. If Dennis is in top shape he’s very difficult to beat.

As one of the top time-triallists, do you think it’s a shame to see only one short TT stage at the Tour this year?

Yes of course, I always like to see a time-trial in a Grand Tour, and the longer the better for me. But I can understand why they limit the number of TTs.

I mean, it’s been getting more and more difficult to make really big changes to the GC in the mountains, whereas it’s relatively easy to get a big change in the TT.

So I can see why the organisers may want to keep the races more competitive by reducing the time-trial.

I personally think the TT is fun to watch, but I don’t know what the general public thinks about it.

How would you feel about further changes to the model of Grand Tour races? For instance, those who suggest we should have shorter stages?

Well, I’m a fan of sometimes having short stages as a change, but I think the build-up of fatigue in a Grand Tour or a week-long event is part of the fun.

It’s part of cycling, actually. So if you make a Grand Tour that has only 2,000km in total, well that’s not the point of the race.

To me, the point of having a long and challenging Grand Tour is that we see all this fatigue building up, then in the last week everyone is super-tired and you start to see some changes in the overall order as a result.

How do you feel about the Hammer Series races [where this interview is taking place]? Do you think the sport is benefitting from adding new models of racing to what we already have?

Yes, definitely. It’s a new concept and the complete opposite of what I’ve been trying to do for the past seven years, which is build myself into an endurance rider.

Now I have to be very explosive for the Hammer events. It’s a difficult combination, but at events like this I really like the interaction with the fans.

That’s the future for the Hammer Series, but also I think the future for normal races.

Do you think the cyclists are open to that sort of change?

I think so. The last decade in the sport has always been the same. We treat the sport of cycling like we did in 1970.

Being conservative about change is sometimes a good thing, as a lot of cyclists like the sport because it’s like it is, but in general it’s good to have some changes.

We need to modernise a bit. Not everything, but events like this are a start.

Now the season is over and winter has arrived, will you be heading to Monaco or Girona as many pros do?

No, no! I’m going back to Holland. I do struggle with the weather in the winter, though.

So from December onwards I go away for training camps in Spain – I do a week of training then come back to Holland to rest for a week, then another week of training and so on.

So do you spend the other week riding along the cycle paths of Holland?

Yes, a little, but I also love to ride my mountain bike. I just ride around forest trails in my area.

I’m sure I would like gravel riding too, but I’ve never really done it. It’s very hip and popular, and now it seems like everything needs to be gravel.

But I’m OK with that.

Cyclist spoke to Tom Dumoulin at the Hammer Hong Kong, which formed part of the Hong Kong Cyclothon. For more details visit discoverhongkong.com

Palmarès

Age: 28
Nationality: Dutch
Honours Giro d’Italia: 1st, 2017, 2nd, 2018, 4 stage wins (2016-18)
Tour de France: 2nd, 2018, 3 stage wins (2016, 2018)
Vuelta a España: 6th, 2015, 2 stage wins (2015)
World Championships: 1st, 2017 Time-trial, 1st, 2017 Team time-trial
Olympic Games: 2nd, 2016 Time-trial 
Dutch National Championships: 1st, 2014, 2016, 2017 Time-trial