Dutchman Jos van Emden won the final stage time-trial in Milan yesterday. And I apologise to him, for that is all I’m going to say about it. For it was behind him, where the major time differences were being won and lost, that it mattered. It was another Dutchman who stole the show. Tom Dumoulin. The first Dutchman to win the Giro d’Italia, which almost seems hard to believe. The first since Joop Zoetemelk to win a Grand Tour of any sort. It is a nation that has been devoid of success for some time, though in recent years, they have been knocking on the door. Today, it opened.
And you get the sense that this won’t be the one and only Grand Tour win for Dumoulin. How can he not be licking his chops at the idea of a run at the Tour in 2018? How about the Vuelta later this year? Getting over the final hurdle to win one, after coming so close at the Vuelta in 2015, will fill him with confidence. And trust it to be a time-trial in which he sealed the deal. That’s where he gained the lions share of his time while defending strong in the mountains. The next Miguel Indurain, some say. Though different too.
Many felt he would take time where he did, but they also felt he would lose more time in the high mountains than he did. Indeed, if it hadn’t been for that day of poop on the valley road between the Mortirolo and the Stelvio, he’d have won with ease. That little call of nature cost him 1 minute of a stop and must have snapped his rhythm. Take that back, and more, and today’s time trial, the one seen for three weeks as being so crucial, would have been irrelevant.
But likewise, had he stopped for much longer, he might well have lost the race. Such are the fine margins by which three week long races are won and lost. (Indeed, as it was, it took Nairo Quintana to hit the final kilometre of this 3,609km route before Dumoulin knew with any certainty that glory was his). It’s almost surreal. Remember Chris Froome running on Mont Ventoux at last years Tour? The balance of that race hung on that iconic moment. This one wasn’t quite so picturesque, but it’s the moment history will look back on as the pivotal one in this Giro.
Each rider will have their own ‘what if’ moment, of course. For Vincenzo Nibali it has got to be that stage to Blockhaus. Throughout this Giro he had the measure of Dumoulin in the mountains, but not that day. Whether it was a bad day or he had yet to find his best form, I don’t know, but he lost 36 seconds to Dumoulin. Throw in the four second time bonus and that’s 40 seconds. Nibali finished exactly 40 seconds behind Big Tom in the end. Fine margins, as I said.
Another man who will look back to that day to Blockhaus with wonder is Geraint Thomas. He was part of that big crash that took down half his team and forced him to abandon a few days later. The following stage in the time-trial he lost only 49 seconds to Dumoulin. He would have fancied his chances alongside the Dutchman in the mountains. That’s what he will believe at least. Some will suggest Thomas is unproven over three weeks as a team leader, but so too was Dumoulin until a few years ago. We won’t know until Thomas goes again. Next year, I hope.
Some will also say that Quintana rode this Giro at only 90 percent; hoping to sneak the win and carry better form into the Tour. Much like how he carried form into last years Vuelta. I guess we’ll find out when we see what kind of form he turns up with in France come July, but it’s hard to know. You’d think if the double was a realistic ambition he’d have shown up with all guns blazing, because as it is, the double is lost now. Then again, Quintana, for all the hype, flattered to deceive in the high mountains. His only stage win came at Blockhaus and even that day his big attack only took 24 seconds out of Dumoulin.
But let’s not take anything away from Dumoulin. He did what he had to do and did it well. He took time in the time-trials, but he was far from static otherwise. He attacked stage 14 and won. And in dropping his shorts on stage 16 he tightened the battle and kept this race wide open right up until the final day. For that we have to be grateful as in hindsight it was now clear: On paper he didn’t even need a second time-trial. But thank goodness Grand Tours aren’t raced on paper.
Final general classification
1. Tom Dumoulin (Sunweb) in 90h34’54”
2. Nairo Quintana (Movistar) @ 31″
3. Vincenzo Nibali (Bahrain-Merida) @ 40″
4. Thibaut Pinot (FDJ) @ 1’17”
5. Ilnur Zakarin (Katusha-Alpecin) @ 1’56”
Best young rider: Bob Jungels (Quick-Step Floors)
Points classification: Fernando Gaviria (Quick-Step Floors)
Mountains classification: Mikel Landa (Sky)
Team classification: Movistar