The Dutchman gave a preview of his climbing legs in stage three of the Abu Dhabi Tour on Saturday, finishing third behind Rui Costa (UAE Team Emirates) and Ilnur Zakarin (Katusha) at Jebel Hafeet.
Dumoulin (Sunweb) chased the pair alone in the final three-odd kilometres of the hilltop finish, suffering with no protection from a headwind that he still managed a consistent pace through.
“On a climb with quite a lot of wind it was difficult to catch them and it wasn’t possible but I’m really happy about this, it means I had a good winter,” he said.
“Of course, I would like to win and I think I might not have been worse than two in front because all the time [I was] on the same distance alone against a headwind. It means that I have good legs, but for the win you need a little bit of luck and good timing. The two in front did it perfect.”
The main group of favourites including Nairo Quintana (Movistar) and Alberto Contador (Trek-Segafredo) didn’t figure in the run to the finish, the pair apparently, more content to tease each other with small and short-lived accelerations.
“It’s the first test of the season so they all want to show off, and that gives other guys possibilities,” Dumoulin said.
All-rounder Dumoulin shelved his Grand Tour aspirations last season to focus on preparing for the Rio Olympic Games time trial in which he claimed a silver medal behind Fabian Cancellara. With that target now met, the 26-year-old has eyes on the maglia rosa pundits believed he would chase in 2016, especially after an emphatic show in the mountains at the 2015 Vuelta a Espana where he relinquished the leader’s jersey only on the penultimate stage, ultimately placing sixth overall.
“I will go for the GC in the Giro but a Grand Tour is still something else and it’s going to be my first Grand Tour where I will be having the pressure on the first day, that I will be having the team behind me to support me,” he said. “It’s all going to be pretty new although I did already GC in the Vuelta, but we’ll see. I have good hopes.”
The 100th edition of Giro with its time trial kilometres may also suit Dumoulin, who has won stages across all three Grand Tours. In any case he has opened his season in Abu Dhabi content with his first-out and a prior block of training in South Africa.
“That has always paid off in the past for me and it does now again, so I’m really happy about that,” he said.