Tom Dumoulin wins opening time trial to take pink
Local favourite Tom Dumoulin won the opening stage of the Giro d'Italia – a 9.8km individual time trial – to take the first maglia rosa of the race in the Dutch city of Apeldoorn.
Delivering his Giant-Alpecin team their first win of the season, Dumoulin completed the pan-flat race against the clock in a time of 11 minutes and three seconds – a fraction of a second quicker than Slovenian Grand Tour debutant, the former ski-jumper Primoz Roglic of LottoNL-Jumbo.
By winning what was essentially a straightforward test of power and aerodynamics, Dumoulin became the first Dutchman to wear the pink jersey since Pieter Weening in 2011. After finishing runner-up in three previous time trials this season – most recently in the Tour of Romandie – an emotional Dumoulin was relieved to have finally made the top rung of the podium.
"It is a relief. I’m feeling sick in my stomach now but at the same time so happy. I did it. Luck was on my side today – the luck I didn’t have in Romandie. To have it paid back here in the Netherlands is very special," said Dumoulin, who was cheered on by swathes of Dutch fans in sunny Apeldoorn – including King Willem-Alexander of the Netherlands.
"I didn’t do my best TT but I also didn’t do my worst," a pragmatic Dumoulin added. "I didn’t really do a mistake, but I would have liked to have been a bit faster. But in the end, the result is all that counts and I did it."
Dumoulin certainly benefited from two incidents beyond his control: the first being a stomach bug which waylaid co-favourite Fabian Cancellara of Switzerland, and the second being an untimely crash for another Swiss rider, Stefan Kung of BMC.
Kung was just one second down at the intermediate check after a fast opening 4.8km when he crashed into the barriers after overcooking a bend. Despite hitting the deck and needing to swap bikes, a bloodied Kung crossed the finish line just 16 seconds down on Dumoulin to suggest that the victory was well within his grasp had he not come a cropper.
As for Cancellara, the Trek-Segafredo veteran was hoping to win the only major leaders’ jersey that had eluded him during his long, illustrious career. But illness meant the man they call Spartacus had already talked down his chances before being the penultimate rider to roll down the ramp in the Apeldoorn velodrome – the venue of the 2011 world track championships.
Cancellara was nevertheless just eight seconds down at the halfway point before coming home 14 seconds adrift of Dumoulin’s target time, which was confirmed as the winning effort once the final rider to start, Australian Michael Hepburn of Orica-GreenEdge, crossed the line well down on the leading riders.
If 26-year-old debutant Roglic surprised for the Dutch team LottoNL-Jumbo then the same could be said for Costa Rica’s Andrey Amador (Movistar), who rode the time trial of his life to set the third best time six seconds behind Dumoulin’s winning effort.
Sweden’s Tobias Ludvigsson, a team-mate of Dumoulin at Giant-Alpecin, sat in the winner’s enclosure for the majority of the afternoon after setting a blistering early time. Ludvigsson eventually finished fourth, at eight seconds, while the top five was completed by German sprinter Marcel Kittel (Etixx-QuickStep) who came home a further three seconds adrift.
Of the big GC favourites Vincenzo Nibali, the 2013 champion from Astana, can be most pleased after the Italian came home 19 seconds down in sixteenth place.
Ahead of the first road stage of the race, Nibali leads Alejandro Valverde (Movistar) by five seconds, Ilnur Zakarin (Katusha) by 13 seconds, Rigoberto Uran (Cannondale) by 14 seconds, Rafal Majka (Tinkoff) by 19 seconds and Mikel Landa (Team Sky) by 21 seconds.
But all the plaudits go to Dumoulin who kept his cool to ensure the opening stage of the 99th edition of La Corsa Rosa kept to the script: a home win and the race’s first pink jersey.
“I can’t describe how I feel in words – it’s better than I could have imagined. To get the most beautiful jersey in cycling in front of my home crowd is amazing,” the 25-year-old said.
Saturday’s 190-kilometre stage from Arnhem to Nijmegen features one small fourth-category climb before three laps around the home town of the musician Eddie van Halen.
Should he win the expected bunch sprint, Kittel would move within one second of Dumoulin on GC thanks to the 10 bonus seconds on offer for stage winners.