Tom Dumoulin (Team Sunweb) arrived at the finish of stage 20 in Cervinia empty but proud to have tried to attack and crack Chris Froome (Team Sky), even in the final kilometres of the final mountain stage of the Corsa Rosa.
The 2017 Giro d’Italia winner will ride into Rome on Sunday in second place overall, 46 seconds down on Froome, but with no regrets.
“No, no regrets. There was nothing I could do to beat Froome. I’m super proud of the team and myself. This is what it is: second," Dumoulin said, sportingly accepting defeat.
Dumoulin tried to distance Froome four times in the final nine kilometres of the climb up to Cervinia. The Materhorn mountain loomed large over the climb and so did Froome, responding every time Dumoulin surged away. Froome even made two attacks of his own to let Dumoulin and the other riders in the select group know who was in charge. Froome finished with loyal teammate Wout Poels, and they celebrated as they crossed the line. Dumoulin finished slightly distanced, head bowed.
“I was so tired, so totally spent,” Dumoulin said. "I had nothing left in the tank, but I’d have blamed myself if I hadn’t tried. I was just tired today, but I tried everything I had. I’m super proud of myself. I was one of the best climbers, but I wasn’t the best. Froome was stronger."
In 2017, Dumoulin dominated the Giro d’Italia, winning two stages and wearing the maglia rosa for 10 days, beating Nairo Quintana (Movistar) and Vincenzo Nibali (Bahrain-Merida) in the final overall classification. He struggled to respond to Simon Yates for much of the race but could sense a chance of victory when the Mitchelton-Scott rider cracked early on the Colle delle Finestre. However, Dumoulin could not catch Froome on the long road to Bardonecchia.
“The course was so much harder this year,” Dumoulin suggested, comparing the two editions of the Giro d’Italia.
“But it’s easier to be an attacker than to be a defender. Being in pink meant a lot of extra stress last year. It’s really difficult to carry the pink. Look at Simon Yates. It’s more comfortable to be the attacker. It was absurdly hard this year, but I’ve made it in the end.”
Froome was forced to defend and explain his incredible ride on stage 19 to Bardonecchia when he spoke post-stage. Dumoulin has questioned if Froome should even be at the Giro d’Italia due to his on-going salbutamol case, but before he took an evening flight to Rome for Sunday’s final circuit stage, he was not interested in starting a polemic, preferring to have done his attacking out on the road.
“I’m not going to answer that one,” Dumoulin said before heading to anti-doping control and eventually to Rome.