Tom Dumoulin clinched victory in the 100 th Giro dItalia as Sundays race finished in Milan with an individual hour trial, ahead of Nairo Quintana and Vincenzo Nibali
After the polemics over toilet transgress and the public slanging matches about professional ethics, and with a week of struggling to stay within contact of the climbing specialists behind him, Tom Dumoulin eventually became the first Dutchman to win the Giro dItalia, but the doubt in his intellect lasted until the final rider in the field reached the last of the 3,612 kilometres.
When Nairo Quintana passed under the red kite marking one kilometre to go in Sundays time trial from Monza to the centre of Milan, the clock said the pink-jerseyed Colombian needed to cover the final 1,000 metres in 59 seconds if he was to prevent Dumoulin from overhauling him and taking victory. With several tight bendings resulting into Milans Piazza Duomo, that was clearly unfeasible.
At that point Dumoulin, sitting in a tent by the finish having completed his race 10 minutes earlier, was finally able to overcome his nerves and smile. He eventually operated out the winner by 31 seconds, having overturned Quintanas overnight advantage of 53 seconds to leap from fourth overall to first. So aimed one of the closest fought of cyclings three Grand Tours in recent years, with Vincenzo Nibali and Thibaut Pinot also starting the day as possible wins, both within 43 seconds of Quintana.
It was such a nerve-racking day. I was so nervous, said Dumoulin. I knew I need to stay calm but I couldnt. This was also the high point of a rise that has taken two and a half years, since he took bronze in the world hour trial championship in Ponferrada behind Sir Bradley Wiggins and the German Tony Martin; last year he added two stages in the Tour de France, including a win on a rain soaked mountain top in Andorra which now looks like something of a milestone.
This was a first for Holland but winning any of the three-week Tours is, paradoxically, a rare achievement for one of Europes leading cycling nations. Prior to Dumoulin, only Joop Zoetemelk and Jan Janssen have managed the accomplishment for Holland, taking one Tour de France and one Vuelta each, but there has been a 37 -year drought at this level for the Dutch since Zoetemelks 1980 Tour win.
The die was cast soon after the start on the Monza motor racing circuit, with Dumoulin 31 seconds faster than Quintana at the first time check after 8.8 km. That indicated he would take the final pink jersey, but not by a great deal; nine kilometres later, on the outskirts of Milan at Sesto San Giovanni, Quintana was timed one minute slower, his leading lost but by no means conclusively.
The final weeks racing had been fought out with this time trial in most minds. The consensus was that Quintana needed to start with a margin of two minutes over Dumoulin to be certain of holding him off; after the Dutchmans stage win last Saturday at the Oropa Sanctuary the Colombian had been 2min 49 sec back, with Pinot and Nibali further behind. The maths was simple; they all needed to gain between five and six minutes on Dumoulin. History suggested that could happen, as Dumoulin had cracked at the very end of the 2015 Vuelta a Espaa, losing the red jersey on the final mountain stage. But here it proved impossible. The twin ascendings of the Stelvio Pass on Tuesday were the climbers best chance; although Dumoulin did cede time there, and on Fridays brutal stage to Piancavallo, and on Saturday at Asiago, on each occasion he managed to limit his loss by letting Quintana, Pinot and Nibali go ahead, then riding at his limit without ever pushing himself to breaking point.
That voices simple but it takes self-discipline and a cool head to avoid the obvious temptation to push only a little bit harder. Moreover he managed it without the help of his key mountain domestique Wilco Kelderman, who was eliminated in the same crash that put under Great Britains Geraint Thomas and which reduced Adam Yatess race to a courageous bid for the white jersey for the best young rider, which lasted until Milan where he was pipped by Luxembourgs Bob Jungels .
The four-way battle between the three climbers and the time triallist set up a finale that did not quite provide the closest ending to a Grand Tour ever the 1984 Vuelta was won by six seconds, the 1989 Tour de France by eight seconds but was enthralling largely because the destiny of the race could have been decided by a puncture, crash or a few moments of weakness.
In the last few days even “the mens” at the upper part of the standings had appeared out on their feet and that was confirmed on the road to Milan. Dumoulin looked imperious, his style and rhythm perfect compared with Quintanas more cramped stance, but he was not fresh enough to win the stage that honour went to his fellow Dutchman Jos Van Emden and he was nowhere near as incisive as he had been in either of his stage wins at Montefalco and at Oropa.
His final margin of 31 seconds voices adequate but that sum of day can be lost in the final kilometre of any mountain if hunger-knock ten-strikes, or at the end of a flat stage through a crash or a relatively minimalsplit in the field. To have won the Giro by a single second, all Quintana would have had to do was dislodge Dumoulin by 22 seconds and add a 10 -second time bonus for winning a stage. In that context the Dutchman won by next to nothing.
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