MUSCAT, Oman (VN) — Tom Dumoulin may have dodged a bullet, but he is feeling the repercussions of a January 23 head-on collision between his Giant – Alpecin teammates and a car. The Dutchman, who is aiming for the Giro d’Italia and the Olympics this year, said the incident is a setback for the entire team.
Dumoulin passed the same stretch of road near Alicante, Spain 10 minutes before the crash. A car drove from the other direction and hit six of his teammates head-on. American Chad Haga suffered a fractured eye socket, 2015 Milano-Sanremo and Paris-Roubaix winner John Degenkolb nearly lost a finger, and Max Walscheid broke his leg.
“It’s definitely a big impact on the beginning of the season,” Dumoulin said Monday when arriving in Muscat for his first race of 2016, the Tour of Oman.
“The team will definitely have a different early season and classics season. John was the guy for the spring season, but that changed completely. Now we don’t have a big winner. It’s definitely difficult. We have no victories so far, one of the few WorldTour teams. It’s just about accepting that the results will be less than we hoped for.”
The team started the Tour of Oman Tuesday with seven riders instead of eight. In last week’s Tour of Qatar, it only fielded five.
“My program stays the same. There are going to be some races where we are six riders, it’s going to affect the results,” Dumoulin added. “Let’s say I take the leader’s jersey in the first stage of the Tour of Oman, it’s definitely going to be harder to keep it. We made those choices, in some races we will have less riders.”
Dumoulin finished fifth in the Oman opener and is 18 seconds out of first place.
Degenkolb will have to aim for other goals, such as stage victories in the Tour de France. Haga was due to start his season in the Tour of Qatar, but he now has to recover first. Warren Barguil, who fractured his scaphoid, is still the team’s leader for the Tour.
Dumoulin gained attention in the Vuelta a España last August and September when he won two stages and nearly the overall title. He led for several days thanks to his time trial and improved strength on the climbs, but Fabio Aru and his Astana gang cracked Dumoulin on the final mountain stage. In the red leader’s jersey, he slipped 3:52 behind and finished the day — and the race — sixth overall.
The experience has not changed Dumoulin’s top goal this season, which is winning the time trial gold medal in the Rio de Janeiro Olympics on August 10. The 25-year-old will race the Giro d’Italia in May, but instead of the overall, he will try to win the opening time trial and the Chianti time trial.
“I will definitely be Tom the cronoman in 2016 and not Tom the GC man. We will postpone that for one more year,” he said. “The Vuelta came so suddenly. It was a nice and special experience, but I don’t want to go with the flow and be the big GC man now. That was never the plan. Why should we give that all away now and go full on for GC now? I started to think, ‘That’s not what I really want.’
“The Olympics were the biggest thing in my childhood. That was the highest thing you could achieve in sports, to get a medal or a gold medal in the Olympics. Now I have that chance, so I want to put everything else aside this year.”