It was supposed to be a red-letter day for Tom Dumoulin, but the only thing that was red was the roadside as he was left bloodied and a little embarrassed by a crash that ruined his chances of time trial glory at the Abu Dhabi Tour.
The Dutchman looked resplendent in his rainbow jersey as the reigning world time trial champion rolled off the start ramp on Al Maryah Island with the aim of ramping up his bid for general classification glory.
As UAE Team Emirates rider Alexander Kristoff is afforded the opportunity to wear white for the majority of the season thanks to his European road race victory in 2017 – so too is Dumoulin allowed to wear his stripes at time trial races following his gold in Norway last September.
He may well have switched to the rainbow jersey for Stage 4, but Dumoulin definitely didn’t show his true colours as the crash saw him slump down the standings, although he did recover sufficiently to claim 12th place – 30 seconds adrift of winner Rohan Dennis – leaving him ninth overall.
Dennis hopes to transition from time trial specialist to GC contender in 2018, with Dumoulin his muse. And the Dutchman might do well to reflect on his own career-shaping 2017 to find inspiration as he looks to overhaul Dennis and claim overall victory on Sunday.
Dumoulin trod the path to transitioning from specialist to all-rounder in 2017 – the Team Sunweb star famously won a first Grand Tour title at the Giro d’Italia, capping a stunning season with time trial glory.
But it was on Jebel Hafeet 12 months ago where the seeds for 2017 success were sewn for Dumoulin – as he rose to the occasion on the daunting ascent on Stage 3 to claim third behind winner Rui Costa and second-placed Ilnur Zakarin – both climbing specialists.
Tech behind the two stripes: @tom_dumoulin's rainbow edition @Giant_Bicycles Trinity Advanced Pro in all of it's glory. 🌈😍— Team Sunweb (@TeamSunweb) 24 February 2018
Check out the finer details and spec here: https://t.co/Ieq6e5BICs pic.twitter.com/JVCZceUUny
Though he will have been desperately disappointed by his debut in the rainbow jersey, Dumoulin is unlikely to dwell long on his Stage 4 debacle.
There is still stage and silverware to be won on Sunday’s summit. And the Maastricht maestro must continue to concentrate on the future as he looks to become a cycling master.
Scotson zipped round the short 12.6km time trial stage around Al Maryah and Al Reem Island in a brisk 14m 37.14s – finishing just over a second behind Team Sky’s Jonathan Castroviejo and 15 behind BMC colleague Rohan Dennis.
The duo were joined in the top 10 by teammates Brent Bookwalter, who finished sixth, and Patrick Bevin in eighth, with other team-mates Joseph Rosskopf (16th) and Damiano Caruso (23rd) claiming finishes inside the top 25.
And Campbelltown native Scotson was pleased with a good day both collectively and personally.
“We’re a bit of a time trial team so four in the top 10 is a great day for us, especially with some pretty established time trialists in the field,” said the 24-year-old, who has made a name for himself since arriving on the WorldTour with BMC last season.
“Rohan put a good gap into the GC guys which is perfect and when he doesn’t have bad luck he really smashes time trials and he did that today. Four in the top 10 is great and shows the team is in good shape which we’ll need to hold onto red jersey.”
A 👌 day @Abu_Dhabi_Tour! Take a look at some of our photos from #RideToAbuDhabi stage 4 including @RohanDennis and @MilesScotson on the podium 👇. 📷: LaPresse - Ferrari / Paolone pic.twitter.com/7JedXX8lWQ— BMC Racing Team (@BMCProTeam) 24 February 2018
Scotson won the road race title at the Australian National Road Championships in his debut campaign with the Swiss team and admits a podium place in Abu Dhabi – as well as taking charge if the white jersey for best young rider – gives him confidence for the future.
“For me it was my first top three in a WorldTour time trial. It’s taken me 12 months since the U23s to have the strength and power to match to the top guys so I’m happy with today,” he added.
“I’ve been solid the last year. I had some top 10s in WorldTour time trials last year but top three in a strong field was a confidence boost. It wasn’t a long course which suits me, I would have preferred a shorter one, but I’m happy with third.
“Next for me is some Classics coming up. After this I’ll just stick to one day races and maybe I’ll do some one week races like Tour of California which will give me the chance to test myself again in the time trial. It’s all a learning curve.”
He’s the three-time reigning Australian time trial champion and has picked up time trial victories at both the Tour de France and Vuelta a Espana – but it is overall success that Rohan Dennis is switching his focus to in 2018.
The BMC rider sped to victory at Stage 4 of the Abu Dhabi Tour on Saturday – as the race staged its first ever time trial – but Dennis has designs on the red jersey, with general classification glory now on his mind rather than just success in his specialist category.
And GC honours are not something he is limiting himself to only in Abu Dhabi as he looks to defend a 24-second gap on the mountainous Stage 5 to Jebel Hafeet from Movistar’s Alejandro Valverde on Sunday.
But after being forced to abandon the Giro d’Italia a year ago on the fourth stage after injuries sustained in a crash on Stage 3 – as he plotted a transformation to Grand Tour contender – Dennis is now determined to make that a reality this year.
“That is what I want to take on, 100 per cent,” said Dennis, 27, addressing his shift to winning GC titles.
“Last year, crashing out of the Giro wasn’t a great start to the new route in cycling I wanted to take. This year I want to really have a crack. I had to keep chugging away and trying to learn everything I possibly can from every Grand Tour I’m in.”
This year’s Giro kicks off with a time trial on May 4, but Dennis is looking beyond the first day and aims to contend for the full three weeks.
“From now on it’s always looking at the overall,” added the Adelaide native.
“I’ve still got a lot to learn. If I can get the pink jersey on the opening stage it’ll be a bonus, but it’s not my initial goal. It’s about making it three weeks and see where I can go overall.”
Dennis destroyed the rest of the field in the capital on the Tour’s penultimate stage, surging to victory on Al Maryah Island in windy conditions in a time of 14m 21.18s – beating Team Sky’s Jonathan Castroviejo by a full 14 seconds.
“Pretty good,” he said when asked about his chances on Jebel Hafeet.
“It’s a hard climb but I also think it’s more suited to a time trialist and we’ll be putting everything we possibly can into keeping this jersey. It’ll be great for me and a great start to racing outside of Australia (if I can win).”
Spanish veteran Valverde is the main man he’s worried about after the Movistar man finished ninth yesterday.
Always a nice feeling being on the top step. Nice bonus getting the leaders jersey as well… https://t.co/rGHeGTgpnj— Rohan Dennis (@RohanDennis) 24 February 2018
But as he aims to take a leaf out of Tom Dumoulin’s book – the Dutchman is also a time trial specialist but finished fifth on the Tour’s mountain stage a year ago before going on to claim the Maglia Rosa at the Giro – Dennis admits he is relishing the challenge of holding on to the red jersey on Sunday.
“Valverde is perhaps the most threatening,” Dennis said when asked to pick out his main challengers.
“Obviously Dumoulin is right up there, but in the crosswinds on Stage 2 he (Valverde) was looking strong so if he can do that on a flat I think he’s quite dangerous on the climbs.
“But it’s a good way to see where I’m at with climbing. It’s about pure power, it’s not super technical.”
As for Dumoulin, it was a fairly disastrous day for the Dutchman, who was donning the rainbow jersey having claimed the honour after bookending a fabulous 2017 by winning world time trial gold in September.
He crashed in the second part of the race and eventually came home in 12th place – although he is only 31 seconds behind Dennis in ninth place overall.
Dennis admitted he was disappointed for Dumoulin, but also believes he would have beaten him even if he hadn’t taken a tumble.
“Everyone knows I’ve had my fair share of those issues and it’s not nice to lose a race because of that,” he said.
“I still believe I would have won today. I was 31 seconds in front and a bike change we usually say takes 30 so he was one second up and lost 32 to me. Look, I’m not gonna say I’m unhappy, but it is a shame if someone loses because of that.”
With desires of adding a new dimension to his cycling, Dennis admitted Dumoulin is his inspiration.
“Everything he’s done is a confidence boost with what is possible for me,” he added.
“We’re quite similar riders and it’s possible if I get everything right like he and (Bradley) Wiggins have, then a Grand Tour is possible for me.
“You can see what he (Dumoulin) did in the Giro. He had some bad luck and lost Wilco (Kelderman, teammate) early on, so it’s not always about the legs but about the head and keeping that on when things are against you.”