Colombia’s Nairo Quintana and Italian Vincenzo Nibali tipped their hat to rival Tom Dumoulin after he raced to a sensational, final-day victory to make history as the first Dutch winner of the 100th Giro d’Italia Sunday.
Dumoulin, the Olympic time trial silver medallist in Rio, trailed 2014 champion Quintana by 53sec after both he and Nibali turned the screw on a final, thrilling day in the mountains on Saturday won by Frenchman Thibaut Pinot (FDJ).
But with a 29.3km time trial set to decide the race, Dumoulin — who beat Quintana by nearly three minutes in a longer, hillier race against the clock on stage 10 — seized the day.
Although finishing 15sec behind compatriot and close friend Jos van Emden (Lotto NL) in front of thousands of waving fans at Milan’s landmark Duomo cathedral, the flying Dutchman did enough on the 21st and final stage to claim his maiden grand tour triumph.
Quintana, who finished 31sec behind in second overall, said he could have no complaints.
“I’m not disappointed at all really,” said the Colombian. “I don’t know if I could have done something better or worse during the Giro, but with Tom Dumoulin being so strong in the time trial, I think I deserve to be where I am.”
A two-time runner-up at the Tour de France, Quintana will now target the world’s most famous bike race in July, adding: “As usual, I’ll be going there to give it my all and try to win it.”
Nibali, who finished a disappointing 13th on the stage at 1:09 behind Van Emden to finish third overall at 40sec behind, became a key ally of Quintana’s in the mountains as they both tried to shake off the stubborn Dutchman in the final week.
But despite Dumoulin suffering “bad legs” on stage 19 to hand the pink jersey to Quintana, he would soon take it back after Nibali and Quintana’s combined efforts on Saturday ultimately failed.
“I couldn’t do any more than this, my energy was spent,” said Nibali, the 2015 Tour de France champion who won the race in 2013 and 2016.
Nibali, though, claimed the inclusion of two time trials in the 100th edition — totalling 69.1 km — had favoured Dumoulin.
“It was the time trials that really tipped the balance in this Giro,” added the Italian, who won a thrilling stage 16 into Bormio in which Dumoulin was forced to chase frantically over the last climb of the Stelvio after suffering an embarrassing, unscheduled toilet stop.
Dumoulin, who wore the pink jersey on his maiden Giro d’Italia last year after winning the opening stage time trial in his native Apeldoorn, saw his hopes take flight with his 10th stage time trial victory in Montefalcone.
A day after Quintana had taken the pink jersey with a great win atop Blockhaus, the Colombian tumbled to second overall at nearly three minutes behind — and Dumoulin’s dream began to take shape.
“It was only stage nine, the Giro had really just started, but Quintana showed he was very strong,” Dumoulin said Sunday.
“I started to think about the podium then, but I didn’t really think about going for overall victory.”
Veteran teammate Laurens ten Dam, however, revealed their victory ambitions started months ago.
“I was in the US in the winter and I saw the Giro course and I was immediately texting with Tom about time trials, and I said, ‘you have to do the Giro’,” said Ten Dam.
“Then I was beginning to doubt because every week there was another contender, Quintana was going to do it, Nibali, Aru all those guys. I thought maybe it was better to do the Tour de France.
“In the end we had a big discussion and we said that we have to go for it to try for the GC (general classification) first time.
“He impressed me so much in the mountains this year.”
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