INTERVIEW: Rapid rise sets cycling star Dumoulin on road to glory

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Dumoulin celebrates on the podium after the 18th stage of the Vuelta.

It’s crazy to think that one decision from a medical school admissions officer could have changed the course of Tom Dumoulin’s life. 

The Dutchman was determined to study to become a doctor but when he was rejected by the university he applied to, he said he’d give himself a year in cycling and see how it goes. 

In 2010, he won a time trial at the Grand Prix of Portugal having never ridden a time trial bike before turning pro in 2012, by joining Giant-Shimano (now Giant-Alpecin). 

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Three years later and the 24-year-old is a time trial favourite – he won the bronze medal at the World Championships last year – but has also emerged as one of the most exciting Grand Tour prospects. 

Had he gotten into med school, he would have never would have become a cyclist.

A surprise holder of the red jersey until stage 20 at last month’s Vuelta a Espana, Dumoulin is certainly one of the biggest revelations of the 2015 season. 

He lost the jersey on the penultimate stage of the Vuelta to Fabio Aru and ended up placing sixth.

But throughout the three weeks in Spain, Dumoulin was the surprise package that sent the Netherlands into a frenzy, and the cycling-mad Dutch public now believe they could soon be witnessing their first Grand Tour champion in 35 years.

The 24-year-old seen crossing the finish line to win the ninth stage of the Vuelta.

“I never knew for sure if I could do Grand Tours. I wanted to find out in a few years, like in two or three years I wanted to try it one time, to go for it. But now it happened already. It changes a little bit my future maybe. It’s been a career-changing Vuelta,” a reflective Dumoulin told Sport360 at the opening of the new Ride Bike Shop at Al Seef Village Mall in Abu Dhabi this week. 

“Overall I’m proud of myself, how I did my preparation and how I did the Vuelta itself. Of course in the end it was disappointing. If I take the disappointment away, I think I did a very good race.”

Cycling is a cruel sport. Imagine pedalling through some incredibly unforgiving conditions and covering 3,000km across Spain and Andorra and reaching a point where you are the leader of a race with less than 300km and only two days to go. Then imagine you end up finishing sixth. How can one prepare to deal with that kind of disappointment?

“You know that before every race, the chances of losing are much higher than winning,” answers Dumoulin. “So you just have to take your chances when they come. Of course, I am disappointed about the last days in the Vuelta and I’m disappointed about more things this season but at the end you have to find the positive side of it. Also take every negative thing and every positive thing and just learn from that for next year.”

Dumoulin will finish his season by competing in the Abu Dhabi Tour, which starts on Thursday, before he takes a much-deserved break.

He admits this winter will see him do some serious “re-evaluating” and while gunning for the General Classification (GC) at Grand Tours seems like a natural progression for him right now, he isn’t too hasty about making such decisions just yet.

“It’s difficult to say something about it now. It’s quite fresh, it’s all new. I can’t imagine me riding only for Grand Tours. I still have time trial as my weapon and I hope to keep it like that. But definitely now I know that I can do Grand Tours for GC and I’ll be doing that in the future. Maybe not every year, maybe not every Grand Tour I enter… we’ll just have to see,” he says.

Giant-Alpecin appear to moving in a direction that would support Dumoulin’s GC ambitions. With the departure of sprinter Marcel Kittel and the rumoured impending arrival of  LottoNL-Jumbo’s Laurens Ten Dam – an all-rounder – it looks like the German team are looking to divert from their sprint-centric tactics and shift their focus to overall victories by supporting Dumoulin or 2015 Tour de France standout Warren Barguil.

“We’re looking at that. But we shouldn’t forget our roots,” says Dumoulin.

“We’re really good at doing lead-outs and sprints and that brought us many victories in the past. So we shouldn’t let that go away so easily. And it’s also nice, I like it, the team likes it. But of course we’ll also try to improve in supporting me and Warren Barguil for example.”

The Dutchman has also set his sights on Rio 2016 Olympics glory next year.

One thing Dumoulin is clear about is his main goal for next season: Rio 2016. 

“The Olympics is my main target. It means a lot to me. I’ve not been brought up in a cycling world. So it’s not like… for me maybe the Olympics are even bigger than the Tour de France. I grew up watching the Olympics first and then I saw cycling later on. The Olympics is something special.”

The 2016 Giro d’Italia route was unveiled in Milan on Monday and it revealed a time trial-heavy course, with three stages planned for riders to race against the clock. 

Asked how tempted he was by the course, given it’s the one Grand Tour he’s yet to sample, Dumoulin said: “It’s definitely an appealing course for me, and definitely with the start in the Netherlands makes it very interesting. But I don’t know yet if I go. We have to see this winter. The Giro is the first Grand Tour to unveil its route, so I’ll wait and see the other courses and then I’ll make a decision.”

Quick sprints

It’s your first time in the Middle East, what’s your initial impression of Abu Dhabi?
“There’s a lot of sand (laughs). It’s completely different than Europe.”

You must be exhausted after a long season, do you have one last push left in you?
“I did Lombardia last Sunday and that wasn’t really very good. It might be that I’m a little bit tired.

“I hope to have one more little last kick before the end of the season for me, that would be nice. It’s been a really nice few months but mentally and physically very demanding. So we’ll just have to see.”

How do you prepare to handle such heat while competing?
“You cannot. You just have to go there, accept it and know that any other rider has the same feeling. We’re all coming from Europe so it’s the same for everyone, we’ll have a little bit of difficulties.

“But in the Vuelta we had some hot weather too so we had some days where it was kind of the same temperature as now. I’ll be fine.” 

*Tom Dumoulin was speaking at the new Ride Bike Shop in Al Seef Village Mall in Abu Dhabi. Giant is the Official Bike of the Abu Dhabi and Dubai Tours for the next two years.

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Happy Birthday – October 7 – Gilberto Silva, Diego Costa, Jermain Defoe

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Gilberto Silva, Diego Costa and Jermain Defoe all celebrate their birthdays.

A respected midfielder in his homeland of Brazil, Silva rose to prominence at the World Cup in 2002 with his classy midfield displays. He was acclaimed as one of the players of the tournament and it earned him a move from Atlético Mineiro to Premier League giants Arsenal where he also became a massive success.

His first season at the club ended with an FA Cup winner’s medal as Arsenal beat Southampton 1–0 Millennium Stadium. However, his second season was one of the most famous in English football history as he helped the Gunners go the whole season unbeaten and claim the Premier League title. Silva was the unsung hero of Arsenal’s ‘Invincibles’.

He left London in 2008 to join Panathinaikos, while he would return home with Gremio and again Atlético Mineiro. He finished up with a superb 93 Selecao caps.

1952: Graham Yallop, the former Victoria and Australia Test captain (63)

1982: Jermain Defoe, former Tottenham and England striker, now at Sunderland (33)

1984: Salman Butt, ex-Pakistan cricket captain who was jailed on spot-fixing charges (31)

1988: Diego Costa, Chelsea Brazilian-born Spain international striker (27)

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Woeful: Kevin Keegan

It was meant to be the perfect occasion. One last match at Wembley Stadium for England – and a crucial one, a World Cup qualifier against their oldest rivals, Germany.

Instead it turned into the hosts’ worst nightmare as the team delivered a performance almost tailor-made to force coach Kevin Keegan into exile.

Keegan was an awful England manager, one of the worst ever and he admitted as much immediately after the game as he quit live in his post-match TV interviews.

Dietmar Hamann’s free-kick squirmed past aged keeper David Seaman, the keeper marking his own Wembley farewell with a blunder, and the sole goal was enough. Enter Sven-Goran Eriksson.

Other memorable events on this day…

2003: Rio Ferdinand was omitted from the England squad to face Turkey in their crucial Euro 2004 qualifier after failing to attend a drugs test.

2007: Scotland lost 19-13 to Argentina in the quarter-finals of the Rugby World Cup in Paris.

2010: Rebecca Adlington won a swimming gold medal in the women’s 800m freestyle final at the Commonwealth Games.

2012: West Indies won the ICC World Twenty20 title, beating Sri Lanka by 36 runs in the final.

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