Tom Dumoulin made history by becoming the first Dutchman to win the Giro d'Italia but just as he did when under attack from Nairo Quintana and Vincenzo Nibali in the final mountain stages, he stayed calm and collected after celebrating with his Sunweb teammates, his girlfriend and family in Piazza Duomo in Milan.
He was looking forward to a celebratory barbecue rather than thinking about his next Grand Tour goal. He wants to keep his feet on the ground rather than become a hero when he returns to the Netherlands and perhaps goes on to target the Tour de France.
Dumoulin defeated Quintana and Nibali to become the first Dutchman to win the Giro d'Italia. He ended a long lean spell for the Netherlands in Grand Tours – Joop Zoetemelk was the last at the 1980 Tour de France.
"This Giro d'Italia victory is not going to change my whole life. I hope to stay the same person with the same character," Dumoulin said.
"Maybe people around me will approach me differently but I hope they don't. If I stay the same, I hope other people around me will too. I really hope I can walk around Maastricht without being treated like a superhero. I can ride my bike fast, but I'm just a normal person.
"Of course it's amazing when you see all the names on the winner's trophy. It's an honour to be part of this long list of champions. I don't feel like a champion but I almost feel like it when I see my name on the trophy. It's very special. Jan Janssen was the first Dutchman to win the Tour and the Vuelta, I'm the first Dutchman to win the Giro. I hope for more in the future but for now I'm just happy to be here."
Dumoulin constructed his victory in the stage 10 time trial, gaining huge chunks of time on his rivals. He then defended the Maglia Rosa in the mountain stages of the final week in a way that reminded many of Miguel Indurain.
He has a similar demeanour to the Spaniard, with added Dutch confidence and self-belief. When he felt good on the climb to Oropa he had the audacity to attack and he stayed mentally strong and in control even when he had take a sudden toilet stop on the descent of the Stelvio. He even had the nerve to openly criticise the alliance between Quintana and Nibali even if it raised the tension in the race. It was arguably the turning point of the race, giving him the psychological upper hand as the two climbers struggled to gain enough time on him before the final time trial.
Dumoulin’s victory struck a blow for the Grand Tour time trialists, proving that on the right course and with some smart tactics, good friends and climbing ability it is possible to defeat the pure climbers and previous Grand Tour winners and their super teams.
"I'm not the first time trial rider who can do well in the mountains. In the past there was Miguel Indurain and for sure he is five steps ahead of me. There are also guys like Bradley Wiggins but I don't want to compare myself to anyone. I'm just really, really happy, it's just an amazing moment. I'm really happy," Dumoulin said.
Becoming a Grand Tour winner
Parts of the Italian media have doubted Dumoulin’s performance in the mountains. They estimated his watts and his Vam and questioned if the numbers add up. They were surprised by his ability to climb so well and produce enough power to better his rivals and the gradients. Dumoulin has released his data in the past and so it will be interesting if he does the same after his Giro d'Italia victory.
"I was never a bad climber. I always had that in me," he explained, explaining he has not undergone a physically transformation like that of Bradley Wiggins. His is more mental.
"I never trained enough in the hills really when I was young. There are no long climbs around Maastricht and that's why I suffered. Now I do more training camps in the mountains, in Tenerife and Sierra Nevada. I've also made a switch mentally. I suffer more now and I now I can do it. I didn't lose much weight, I'm maybe two kilos lighter than I was three years ago, it's not a big difference."
Dumoulin's mental strength proved to be vital in the final week when he was on the ropes after his stomach problems over the Stelvio.
"The hardest stage of the Giro for me was when I lost a minute and when they attacked me on the downhill of stage to Pianacavallo. That was mentally and physically hard day.
"I also had some problems with eating, after the intestinal troubles it was difficult to recover and so I knew I would have some problems in the following days. Maybe that's my biggest advantage in this Giro: even on a bad day like that, I only lost a minute to the overall rivals. I had the experience of losing much more at the Vuelta, so I stayed calm and I limited the losses."
Janssen and Zoetemelk won two Grand Tours each, taking the Vuelta a Espana in 1967 and 1979, respectively, and then going on to win the Tour de France the year after.
Dumoulin will no doubt go on to target the Tour de France, with the French race arguably far more suited to his talents than the Giro d'Italia. "I hope for more in the future but for now I'm just happy to be here in pink," Dumoulin said, holding his composure to the very end while trying to understand what he has achieved.
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