Five things we learnt from the Giro d'Italia
Sunday’s dramatic finale of the 100th edition of the Giro d’Italia saw Tom Dumoulin become the first Dutch rider to win the coveted race.
Dumoulin started the day in fourth place but produced a masterclass in the final day time trial to take the Maglia Rosa by 31 seconds from Nairo Quintana (Movistar), with Vincenzo Nibali (Bahrain-Merida) completing the podium.
It has been widely praised as one of the most exciting Grand Tours in history and produced a number of controversial twists and turns.
Below, the Sports Gazette discusses the five things we learnt from the incredible race.
Tom Dumoulin is now the complete package and will only get better
Three weeks ago when punters and pundits were picking their Giro winners, Dumoulin’s name was on very few people’s lips.
Most people thought that the Giro was Quintana’s to lose, and could only realistically be beaten by two-time winner Vincenzo Nibali or a rejuvenated Thibaut Pinot.
Before the Giro, Dumoulin’s best finish in a Grand Tour was a sixth place in the Vuelta a Espana and was still seen by people as an exceptional time trialist who would crack in the unforgiving Italian mountains.
The first sign that Dumoulin could surprise a few people came on stage nine when he managed to follow Quintana up the Blockhaus, losing only 24 seconds.
And that set the scene for the rest of the Giro. Dumoulin was dogged in the mountains, never panicking when he lost a wheel and his weight loss over the winter payed off in spades.
With this win Dumoulin has become the real deal and, at only 26, the ‘Butterfly of Maastricht’ will be a major player in many Grand Tours to come.
Fernando Gaviria could build Cavendish style dominance
In his first appearance at a Grand Tour, Fernando Gaviria (Quick-Step Floors) won four stages and, with it, the Maglia Ciclamino.
The Colombian consistently got the better of his rivals - even in a strong field which included Andre Greipel (Lotto-Soudal), Caleb Ewan (Orica-Scott) and Sam Bennett (Bora-Hansgrohe).
However, it was the style of his victories that particularly caught the eye, and his superiority brought to mind Mark Cavendish’s halcyon days where the margin of victory would be measured in bike lengths rather than tyres’ widths.
With Cavendish and Greipel now the wrong side of 30 and Marcel Kittel (Quick-Step Floors) reaching that mark next year, at only 22 years old, Gaviria has every chance of dominating future Grand Tour sprints.
Quintana’s luck of punch in the mountains makes good viewing for Chris Froome
Quintana was the overwhelming favourite going into the centennial edition of the Giro, with his prowess in the big mountains thought to be too much for his rivals.
After losing almost three minutes to Dumoulin in the first time trial of the race, the pressure was on Quintana to attack in the relentless climbs of the third week.
The 2014 winner, though, failed time and time again to take significant chunks out of Dumoulin’s lead and he didn’t seem to be able to kill off stages after his initial attacks.
Quintana will be one of Chris Froome’s main rivals at the Tour de France and seeing the Colombian rider’s inability to outclass his Giro rivals will give the Brit every confidence of winning his fourth Tour in five years.
Team Sky’s bad luck in Italy continues
A year after Tour de France victory, Bradley Wiggins chose the 2013 Giro d’Italia as his main focus for the year.
However, his race was marred by crashes, mechanical issues and illness and he was forced to abandon the race in the second week.
It was a similar story for team leader Mikel Landa in the 2016 Giro - wearing the Maglia Rosa early on but abandoning due to illness.
Team Sky came into the year’s Giro with two strong leaders in Geraint Thomas and Landa but their race was effectively over when, on stage 9, a police motorbike caused a huge crash in the peloton, wiping out several members of Team Sky.
If you add their recent controversies surrounding their integrity as a team to their Giro woes, a certain D:Ream song springs to mind.
Italian fans may be worried for the future
Italian fans were made to wait until stage 16 to see a home victory - the longest wait ever in a Giro d'Italia.
That’s not to say it wasn’t worth it though, with Nibali edging out Landa in an epic Queen’s stage which involved two ascents of the Stelvio.
Italians have been blessed with a plethora of outstanding talent in recent times - amassing 15 overall wins since 1997.
But going forward, Italian fans may have to get used to stage and overall wins becoming more and more scarce.