Blazin’ Saddles: 100th Giro d’Italia rider report cards
With Tom Dumoulin becoming the first Dutchman to win the Giro d’Italia, our resident cycling blogger Felix Lowe takes a look at the final top ten – plus some notable other riders – and calls the shots.
Whoever decided it would be a good idea to deck Nairo Quintana out entirely in pink on the final stage to Milan – plus give every Movistar rider a pair of pale pink trainers to wear in the finish zone – really needs their head tested.
Those unsure of how deserved the Colombian’s 11th Hour dethroning was need to ask themselves the age-old question: do bears sh*t in the woods? And if they’re still unsure, they should ask themselves when was the last time they had seen a Grand Tour winner drop anchor on the side of the road and still manage to sail to victory.
After he survived Number One attacks and a flurry of Number Two attacks, you’d be hard pressed to find a more popular Giro champion than Tom Dumoulin – a rider ready to knock Miguel Indurain off his perch or even, er, stool.
And without further ado, let’s take a look at the major players of this year’s Giro – starting with the top ten riders, in reverse order…
Italy’s next big GC hope Zubeldia’d himself into the top ten with a little help from those riders who were forced out. Less present than Cannondale-Drapac team-mate Pierre Rolland, who won a stage, Formolo consistently rode alongside the favourites but failed to really come alive – except with the prospect of having bresaola for dinner.
Orica-Scott’s young Brit would surely have won the white jersey and posed more of a threat than a needling presence had he not lost so much time on the stage to Blockhaus following that incident with the police motorcycle. Kept a smile on his face, nevertheless, and rode admirably and promisingly.
Adam Yates in the time trialGetty Images
The Luxembourgeois Gentilhomme proved that last year’s cameo in the top ten and maglia Bianca was no fluke by repeating that performance while winning one stage and blowing the race apart to set up Quick-Step Floors team-mate Fernando Gaviria for another. With his contract up at the end of the season, the man with the peloton’s most aero-bounce hairstyle should have suitors aplenty; bald Sir Dave Brailsford is said to be very covetous.
Ever-present and always a minor menace – in the same way that a worn-out fly stuck inside is a minor menace – the Trek-Segafredo all-rounder proved his dependability while showing the limitations that will mean he’ll never win a Grand Tour. His work ethic saved compatriot Dumoulin’s bacon on at least one occasion. Always smiling and happy to interact with the press, Mollema is a good egg – but too often pickled and not poached.
The man who is to knees what Chris Froome is to elbows rode consistently but set the race on fire as much as Guy Fawkes. Came close to a win in Stage 20 but was outdone by the spunky Pinot. Ag2R-La Mondiale’s Italian veteran can no longer win a Grand Tour but still has what it takes to shine – and could yet finish on a podium in a year where his rivals decide to fry other fish.
Domenico Pozzovivo of Italy and AG2R La Mondiale during the 17km Individual Time Trial stage eighteen of Le Tour de France from Sallanches to Megeve on July 21, 2016 in Megeve, France.Getty Images
Like a shy exhibitionist, the rangy Russian occasionally flashed his talent, but is clearly still affected by that multitude of crashes last year – in both the Chianti time trial and the descent off the Colle dell’Agnello. Needs to back himself more often because more often than not it was Zakarin who forced splits in the mountains, and he was certainly one of the best riders of the third week. A stronger Katusha-Alpecin team would have helped.
Russia's Ilnur Zakarin of team Katusha Alpecin, arrives to take the start of the 8th stage of the 100th Giro d'Italia, Tour of Italy, cycling race from Molfetta to Peschici on May 13, 2017.Getty Images
Making his debut in the Giro, the Frenchman constantly animated the last week, winning one stage and taking back time on two others. If Pinot merited to finish on the podium for the way he rode the race, he will be annoyed to have missed out thanks to his sub-par performances against the clock – the area he has worked so hard to improve. Still, he rode with verve and panache, and he’ll certainly be back after admitting to taking to la vie en rose.
Thibaut PinotGetty Images
A professional, workmanlike and canny performance from the defending champion – the kind of performance you’d expect from someone with nothing to prove, but perhaps without the requisite form of quality needed to win the race. Tried to make up the differences by nook or by crook, and was heavily dependent on 39-year-old Bahrain Merida team-mate Franco Pellizotti. Showed nothing to suggest that he’s still capable of winning another Grand Tour, yet did enough to please home fans and win Italy’s only stage.
On too many occasions the Colombian resembled not only a different kind of sportsman from the man who beat him, but seemed to be practising an altogether different kind of sport. So often his Movistar team paved the way, but Quintana – renowned for his climbing explosiveness – didn’t have the flame to light the touch paper. Ultimately, he paid the price for not taking enough time back in the mountains in a race where offsetting TT losses would prove so key. Whether he was keeping something back for the Tour remains to be seen; he’ll need to be far better if he doesn’t want double failure now that the elusive double is beyond him.
Colombia's Nairo Quintana of team Movistar competes during the Individual time-trial between Monza and Milan on the last stage of the 100th Giro d'Italia, Tour of Italy, cycling race, on May 28, 2017 in MonzaGetty Images
A special 100th edition of the Giro designed to perhaps lure Chris Froome off-piste and over into Italy instead proved the coming-of-age platform for another rider for whom time-trialling, weight loss and improving climbing combined to make the cornerstone of his armoury. Given the nature of the race, the Dutchman could afford to ride this race in a negative split – but instead he made light of his Sunweb weaknesses and wore pink for far longer than expected before finally conceding ahead of the dramatic last-day swing. If Quintana was viewed as the man who would draw a curtain down on Froome’s dominance then Dumoulin’s just opened the blinds on an alternative scenario.
Other notable riders
The most winningest Grand Tour debut since Bernard Hinault broke on to the scene came courtesy of the man whose four wins ensured that this Giro was the most successful yet for his native Colombia. A variety of wins – including one sensational effort from way back to deny Ireland’s Sam Bennett – made Gaviria the man of the opening phase of the race; the maglia ciclamino was a deserved prize for the 22-year-old holding out till Milan after his largely humbled rivals – Andre Greipel, Caleb Ewan et al – had already packed their bags.
Listing the Welshman among the pre-race favourites always seemed a bit illogical given his underwhelming record in Grand Tours in terms of concrete top tens or stage wins. That he climbed Blockhaus so well despite being knocked so violently off his bike at the foot of the final climb suggests the Sky rider could well have mixed it with the best – especially given his strong time trial two days later. You can only feel for Thomas not having had the chance to gauge himself against the best; now 31, he won’t have many fresh opportunities while in such good nick.
Like Thomas, we’ll never know how Landa would have fared in the GC battle but his performances on the major mountain stages (twice runner-up, one victory) suggests he could well have been realistically targeting the maglia rosa rather than the azzurra. That said, his time trialling ability would probably have let him down. Anyway, the Basque rider deserves not only praise but also a leadership role for Sky in the Vuelta – rather than flogging himself for Froome in July. Must improve tactics in two-up sprints quite urgently.
Being caught in a split in the opening stage in Sardinia set the tone for the flame-haired Dutchman, who crashed at the foot of Etna and withdrew with illness a few days from the end. By then he was targeting a top-ten finish rather that the pink jersey or podium place that he really should have taken one year earlier. Nothing from this race suggests that Kruijswijk won’t forever rue that crash into the snow wall on the Colle dell’Agnello. He clearly won’t ever get a better chance to win a Grand Tour.
Steven Kruijswijk - Lotto NL Jumbo - Giro d'Italia 2017 stage 6 Getty Images
Tejay Van Garderen
Where does the American go from here? After another abject failure in terms of GC, Van Garderen at least turned things round with a maiden Grand Tour stage win in the Dolomites. The BMC all-rounder should perhaps take on board comments made by Pierre Rolland last week: the Frenchman said he had erroneously targeted GC in major races for way too long, and should instead have concentrated on stage wins. If this Giro can usher in a new such era for Van Garderen, then it won’t have all been in vain.