How Froome and Dumoulin’s absence from the Tour tips the balance of power to climbers

Sunweb announces Dumoulin will miss La Grande Boucle on Thursday

June 20th, 2019 by | Posted in News | Tags:

After a week in which Tom Dumoulin abandoned the Critérium du Dauphiné, had a minor surgery to remove gravel in his knee leftover from the Giro d’Italia crash that forced him to quit the race, and scrapped a training block in the Alps, the Dutchman’s Sunweb team announced Thursday that the 2017 Giro winner would miss July’s Tour de France.

Dumoulin, runner-up in both the Giro and Tour last year, said in the announcement, “The last month has been extremely difficult overall, and with setbacks in the knee recovery. After what happened at the Giro I really wanted to go for it in the Tour, but this week I realised it’s just not realistic for my level to be there in time. I’ve tried so hard to get there but I really have to listen to my body and release myself from chasing an unrealistic goal.”

Dumoulin’s absence combined with Chris Froome’s following his terrible crash at the Dauphiné, means the Tour will be without what would have been the two strongest time trial riders among the GC contenders. Although there’s only one individual time trial of 27-km, the balance of power had been tipped to the climbers.

Right now the odds-on favourites to win the Tour are Froome’s Ineos teammates Geraint Thomas–the title holder who recently crashed out of the Tour de Suisse--and Egan Bernal, who took over the Tour de Suisse lead on Thursday. Thomas is the better time trialist, although it’s unclear how the crash will affect his race. Both Ineos riders will benefit from the 27-km team time trial, a discipline that Ineos tends to ace. However, with five summit finishes, the 2019 route may better suit Bernal, even without Thomas’ crash as a factor.

After the Ineos duo, Astana’s Jakob Fuglsang, Dauphiné winner for the second time, has the next best odds and is enjoying the season of his career. Fuglsang outclimbed some stiff competition in winning the fifth stage of this year’s Tirreno-Adriatico. One of those rivals was Adam Yates, who was second to Fuglsang on the last day of the Dauphiné before illness saw him abandon. (Fourteen place Michael Woods and ninth place Steven Kruijswijk also withdrew that day because of sickness).

Other climbers who contested the Dauphiné like Nairo Quintana (9th), Thibaut Pinot (5th) and Romain Bardet (10th) will like their chances a little more, with Quintana, like Fuglsang, having the edge in the team time trial and team strength in general. Deceuninck-Quick Step’s Enric Mas will also have a good team trial squad.

So even though 66% of last year’s Tour podium men and 44% of last year’s Grand Tour podium men won’t be lining up in Brussels on July 6, their absence, as disappointing as it might be for the fans, opens up opportunities for teammates and rivals.