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Memories of the 2017 Giro: A fair winner

Eurosport commentator Laura Meseguer shares her insight on a memorable debut Grand Tour win for Tom Dumoulin

Laura Meseguer
12 Jun 2017

While I’m writing these lines, I’m still feeling the fatigue of following a Grand Tour around the whole of Italy for almost four weeks.

If I close my eyes I still can feel the emotion and adrenaline of the last 15 minutes of the time-trial that brought the 100th Giro d’Italia to a close, with the arrival of the top 10 in the general classification and the victorious Tom Dumoulin.

It was the best Grand Tour final day I can remember in recent years. At one point, in the middle of the chaos, I took the time to look around me: the finish line, the crowd, the podium, the teams, the rest of the media and the stunning Duomo. I felt fortunate.

To mark its centenary, the Giro celebrated the Italian union with a route that started in Sardinia, hopped across to Sicily the crossed the Italian mainland in its entirety from south to north.

The 100th Giro honoured the greatest Italian champions – names like Bartali, Coppi and Pantani – with the race passing by their hometowns or climbing the mountain passes where they forged their reputations.

In contrast, the racing in the first two weeks of the 2017 Giro didn’t seem to live up to the epic setting of the scenery. Inside the race, everyone was expecting more from the leaders’ teams. Further on, we would realise how evenly matched the strengths were among the favourites.

This was the first time that Vincenzo Nibali, Nairo Quintana, Thibaut Pinot and Tom Dumoulin had measured their forces as direct rivals, so the scenario was new for all of them.

You could feel they didn’t have the same intimate knowledge of each other as say Chris Froome and Alberto Contador.

It took an argument over fair play – or a perceived lack thereof – to really spice up the race. Plenty has already been written about Dumoulin’s unscheduled toilet break on the lower slopes of the Stelvio, and in truth it was a far more complex argument than it first seemed.

Behind the scenes, many former pros and sport directors privately don’t really agree with the ‘unwritten rule’ of waiting for your rival. ‘These are circumstances of the race,’ they say.

One former offered an interesting insight when I spoke to him on the day the drama unfolded: ‘His first mistake was that you have to stop before the climb. And second, if you make a point to go to the head of the race and let the guys know you need to stop, 100% they will slow down and will wait for you.’

Fair play and polemics aside, behind the podium in Milan after the race, Nibali, Quintana and Dumoulin shook hands, leaving behind the race tension.

In the end, the whole affair only enhanced the quality of Dumoulin’s victory and strengthened his image.

Few had thought a first Grand Tour success for the Dutchman was on the cards, even after his landslide victory in the Stage 11 time-trial.

Even though he had won stages at all three Grand Tours and had previously led both the Giro and Vuelta, he had yet to show consistent form for the full three weeks of a Grand Tour.

Team Sunweb also weren’t seen as being as strong, and tactically experienced, as rival line-ups. Movistar, for example, has been in professional cycling for 37 years and is led by Eusebio Unzue, known by his understanding when it comes to signing riders and creating strong Grand Tour teams.

It’s no coincidence that they have finished top of the UCI rankings four years in a row.

Yet for all their cycling and tactical knowledge, they couldn’t deny Dumoulin a well-deserved overall victory.

And it’s not as though they didn’t try. During the third week, the lack of race-changing attacks from the favourites may have suggested otherwise, but this was a very different Giro than we’ve seen in the past.

As Gorazd Stangelj, Bahrain-Merida’s sport director, told me: ‘In all my years in professional cycling I’ve never seen a Giro d’Italia like this one. Have you realised that none of the teams leading the race have protected the maglia rosa as we are used to see?

‘The whole team around their leader, protecting him and controlling the pace? Not even one day!”

It was a completely different scene from the one we’re used to seeing at the Tour, with the Team Sky train dominating the race. 

Cycling has a new darling of the Grand Tours – a new Miguel Indurain, as the dreamers like to suggest.

Personally what I admire about Tom Dumoulin is how he coped with the pressure when things weren’t going his way – with dignity, without going into controversy, and above all with a smile on his face.

The Netherlands finally has another Grand Tour champion after 37 years of waiting, which is surely just reward for being the most bike-friendly country in the world.