It truly was a case of 'one hill too far' for Dumoulin in his quest to win the Vuelta a Espana - in this case, one-and-a-half.
Dumoulin saw his hopes for a Vuelta victory disappear with two searing attacks from Fabio Aru (Astana) just under 50km from the end of Stage 20. While Dumoulin was able to pull back the Italian after his first surge, he had no answer for the second and was soon isolated, far behind the other GC contenders
He eventually limped in 34th on the stage, having fallen to sixth on GC.
“It was too much today,” Dumoulin said. “I was expecting the attack from Aru, but I couldn’t follow him. I fought with everything I had, but it wasn’t enough.”
“After the first attack by Aru, I had difficulties countering him, and closing the gap,” he added. “I was on the limit. When he went again, it was over."
Dumoulin admitted that the Vuelta - which he had entered barely registering as an overall classification candidate - had finally got the better of him.
“I kept on fighting for the podium or the top five, but there was nothing left in the tank. I was out of energy, and it was one day too long," he said.
Giant-Alpecin directur sportif Addy Engels was philosophical about Dumoulin's collapse.
“We knew Astana was planning this, and we simply didn’t have the team to take the initiative on a difficult course like today’s,” Engels told VeloNews.
“It came down to Tom himself, as in earlier stages in the Vuelta, but unfortunately today, he didn’t have the legs."
Dumoulin's increasingly composed performance bodes well for his future Grand Tour potential, although that's cold comfort for him today.
“At the moment, it’s just disappointment. Tomorrow I will be proud, but today it’s just disappointment,” he said.