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2017 Giro Results

# Rider Name (Country)Team Result

1 Tom Dumoulin (Ned)Team Sunweb 90:34:54

2 Nairo Quintana (Col) Movistar Team 0:00:31

3 Vincenzo Nibali (Ita) Bahrain-Merida 0:00:40

4 Thibaut Pinot (Fra) FDJ 0:01:17

5 Ilnur Zakarin (Rus) Katusha-Alpecin 0:01:56

6 Domenico Pozzovivo (Ita) AG2R La Mondiale 0:03:11

7 Bauke Mollema (Ned) Trek-Segafredo 0:03:41

8 Bob Jungels (Lux) Quick-Step Floors 0:07:04

9 Adam Yates (GBr) Orica-Scott 0:08:10

10 Davide Formolo (Ita) Cannondale-Drapac 0:15:17

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Bill  On The Road

 by: Bill Oetinger  6/1/2017

Heroes of the Giro

I’m writing this on Sunday morning, May 28, just an hour after the conclusion of the 2017 Giro d'Italia. Right now, there is nothing I would rather write about than this first grand tour of the season. What a great race it turned out to be!

Tom Dumoulin (SunWeb) won the race, becoming the first Dutchman to win a grand tour since Joop Zoetemelk took out the Tour de France in 1980. You may recall that Dumoulin almost won the 2015 Vuelta, holding a slim lead through 19 of the 21 stages before running out of gas (and teammates) on Stage 20, the last mountain finish. It was a heroic effort but ultimately a failed one. Now however he has managed to eke out a victory in an even more heroic campaign.

Tom DumoulinHere’s the deal with Dumoulin and the main thread holding this whole Giro narrative together: he’s a big rider (relatively speaking). Because of that gravitational challenge, he’s not your classic grimpeur up in the mountains. He’s damn good compared to most riders, but matched against the pure climbers, he struggles. Damage control and limiting losses are his everyday bread and butter in the hills. He balances that weakness with killer time trials. He’s one of the very best against the clock in the pro peloton right now. In contrast, none of his chief rivals in this Giro—all excellent climbers—is all that great against the clock.

Just how big is Tom compared to the guys who were his prime rivals in the Giro? Rounding up or down a little, here are the numbers…

Tom Dumoulin is 6’1” and 160 lbs. Ilnur Zakarin is 6’2” and 150 lbs. Vincenzo Nibali and Thibaut Pinot are both 5’11” and 140 lbs. Nairo Quintana is 5’6” and 130 lbs. Domenico Pozzovivo is 5’5” and 120 lbs. (It seems a bit absurd to think of someone at 6’1” and 160 pounds as “heavy,” but these are the greyhounds of sport we’re talking about here. I mean, I’m 5’11” like Nibali and Pinot, but I haven’t weighed 140 since I was in grade school. Sheesh!) So he’s giving away at least 10 pounds to some of his rivals and as much as 30 or 40 pounds to some others. In a sport where advantage is measured in grams, that is a big handicap. Put 25 pounds in your seat bag or in a day pack and then go out and climb big mountains (day after day). How’s that gonna work out for you? I do understand that much of the extra weight he’s carrying is muscle, but still…

The six riders listed above occupy the top six placings in the final standings at the Giro. Although in hindsight we can say that only Dumoulin, Quintana, and Nibali—the eventual podium—were likely winners, all were bunched very closely and all were significant actors on all the big stages. They were all still within 1:30 of the lead after 20 stages. That made for tense, exciting racing…high drama.

Overall, it was a fairly conventional Giro, without any oddball stages. There were two full-scale time trials: 39.8 K and 27.6 K. Both were relatively flat and that favored Dumoulin. There were around eight mountain stages, depending on how you define the term. At least two of those had extensive flats or downhills after the last summit and a couple of the others weren’t all that hard. (They’re all hard for average cyclists, but compared to some of the crazy stuff they have offered in other years, these were not that bad.) That too probably helped the big guy. There were plenty of stages for the sprinters to do their thing or for breaks to get away and grab the laurels for a day. 

Unlike some other recent Giros, the weather was excellent. I may be forgetting something (and I didn’t watch all the miles every day), but I’m pretty sure there was little rain and certainly no snow. Not too many crashes. The most significant one was when a rider on the left fringe of the peloton hit a parked motorcycle and caromed through the riders, taking out about half the Sky team in one bunch. Sky leader Geraint Thomas was injured, and although he continued, he never got back to top form and eventually abandoned. Aside from that, all the favorites survived and a good number were still in the hunt right up to the end. It was a stellar field too: a lot of A-list stars.

I’m not going to break this down into every single second gained or lost over 21 stages. I have taken notes that cover that, but it’s more than we need to know. I’ll just hit a few high points. 

The first hilltop finish was on Mt Etna on Stage 4, but it wasn’t steep or long enough to break up the group: most of the major players finished together. The first decisive mountain finish was Blockhaus on Stage 9. Here, Nairo Quintana looked to be in his classic form. He danced away from the lead group on the last climb and no one could touch him. Pinot and Dumoulin came in 24 seconds later and the others leaders straggled in over the next two minutes. I’m sure many of us thought at the time that if he is going to do this—or more—on all the mountain stages, it’s already over. But that turned out to be something of a high-water mark for Quintana. He looked good all week but he never again was able to simply dance off the front and drop all his rivals. He did a lot of that dancing, but in every case, at least a couple of his rivals would reel him back in.

That put him into the lead, but his reign was short-lived. After the first rest day, there was the first time trial. In my quasi-predictions last month, I noted that Quintana’s time trialing would be a problem for him, and so it turned out. As expected, Dumoulin won the time trial handily, putting anywhere from 2:07 (Nibali) to 2:53 (Quintana) into his chief adversaries. Kind of reminded me of the Miguel Indurain days. That put Dumoulin in pink, and from that moment on, the concern of all the other top riders was simple: how the hell do we beat Dumoulin? Their only hope was to crack him in the hills…take back chunks of time, day after day, climb after climb.

That plan didn’t look too good after the next hilltop finish to Oropa on Stage 14. (It was not one of the harder finishes, but 2400’ of gain over seven miles is still a good challenge.) Tom not only hung with the climbers, in the last kilometer he came around them all and won the damn stage, gaining a healthy :14 over Quintana and :43 over Nibali, plus bonus seconds.  As they say: WTF? This guy is for real!

At that point, two-thirds of the way through the Giro, he had comfortable leads of anywhere from 2:47 (Quintana) to 4:59 (Pozzovivo). But then on Stage 16, a huge climbing stage, we encounter one of the weirder moments of this or any other stage race. After having hung in with the climbers over two gigantic passes—the back side of Mortirolo and the front side of Stelvio—down in the valley again, just before the last big climb, Dumoulin suddenly has an urgent need to take a crap. Hey, it must happen every so often. We see him pull off the road, run out into a field, rip off his jersey and then drop his shorts and squat in the tall grass, at which point the camera finally decides to look elsewhere. Meanwhile, the patrons at the front of the peloton have slowed things down in a sporting gesture: give the poor guy time to get back on. But that truce breaks down before he’s really back at the front, as various riders start to attack on the final climb. After the summit, the stage ends with the long, twisting careen back down the front side of the Stelvio to a finish in Bormio. Thanks to a dazzling display of brass-balled descending, Nibali wins the stage, with Quintana :12 back. Dumoulin does the big climb and descent mostly on his own and comes in 2:18 later. His overall lead is cut to just :31.

After that, he’s really on the defensive. He loses a few seconds to some of the top guys on another mountain finish on Stage 18, but he crosses the line with Quintana and Nibali, so okay so far. But on Stage 19, a big climb to Piancavallo, he finally weakens and finishes over a minute behind Quintana and Nibali. Now Quintana is back in pink with Dumoulin at :38 and Nibali at :43. That left one mountain stage to go and then the time trial on the final stage. That last ITT was always hanging out there like the elephant in the room: If the mountain goats couldn’t put enough time into Dumoulin, he was going to come back around them in the time trial. They were chipping away at him but not destroying him. Every day in the mountains, they would attack…attacking one another as well, of course, but mostly working over big Tom, trying to once and for all shake him loose and put some serious time into him. Every time he was gapped, he stayed calm and kept to his own tempo, and except for a few seconds here and there and that minute-plus gap on Stage 19, he kept things under control.

Tom DumoulinThat was the story on the final climb on Stage 20 as well. The last climb was tough: a little over 3000’ in a little under nine miles. But there were another nine miles of flats and rollers from that summit to the finish line. Time after time on the climb, Dumoulin would be gapped, but over and over he stayed calm and marched to his own drummer, slowly clawing back up to the leaders. Finally, at the summit, his top five rivals went over almost together and almost :30 ahead of him. Over those last mostly flat miles, we ended up with a group of five up front—Quintana, Pinot, Nibali, Pozzovivo, and Zakarin—with another group of six chasing them down, including Dumoulin. I was interested to note that of the 11 riders in these two groups, all but one had number bibs ending in 1…that is, all ten of them were the designated team leaders for their respective teams. Here, at the end of the long, grueling tour, the cream was rising to the top.

The front five were working hard but didn’t seem to be quite coordinated in their efforts over those last miles. They did not look like a team time trial. But the group of six behind them was not exactly in sync either. Some of the guys were working and others were just sitting in. Nevertheless, with Dumoulin doing most of the work and getting a little help from a couple of others, they reduced the gap from :30 to :15 at the end. Once again, Tom had limited his losses and all his rivals knew they had failed in their task of putting enough time into him ahead of the final time trial.

Dumoulin did not win that last time trial. On a great day for Holland, his countryman Jos Van Emden did. But Tom finished second, with plenty of time pulled back to clamber up to the top step of the podium. Nibali was the only other contender to crack the top 20 in the ITT, with the others well down the list. In the end, Quintana finished second in the Giro at :31 with Nibali in third at :40. While it’s going to be said over the years that Dumoulin’s superior time-trialing won him this Giro, don’t forget his storming win at Oropa, where his put :14 into Quintana and :43 into Nibali. And don’t forget his emergency potty break that probably cost him at least two minutes. Without that strange interlude, the finish wouldn’t have been anywhere near as close as it was.

What made this Giro so much fun to watch was the dynamic between the pure climbers and Dumoulin on every mountain stage. They’d attack, in ones or twos or eventually bunches…he’d be left for dead, but then, over the next few kilometers, would slowly, painfully pull himself back to them. He seldom had teammates to help him, at least not on the final climbs. He just plugged away at it, day after day, mile after mile, climb after climb. It must have been tempting, watching those little climbers dancing away up the roads, to just throw in the towel and let it all go. But he never did. I think the Italian word for this is grinta: guts, determination, courage. He had it in spades. It will be interesting to see what the future holds in store for him, but I expect right now, today, he is happy just to enjoy what he has accomplished over the past three weeks. Among a cast of wonderful heroes at this year’s Giro, he is the most heroic of all.

Bill can be reached at srccride@sonic.net

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