Tom Dumoulin has looked back at his hugely successful 2017 season, revealing how his major victories at the Giro d'Italia, the BinckBank Tour and the World Time Trial Championships all boosted his confidence one after the other, confirming him as one of the sport's biggest stars and a likely multiple Grand Tour winner in the years to come.
Dumoulin turned 27 in November and is entering the peak of his career. Team Sunweb have already confirmed that he will target the Giro d'Italia in 2018 before considering riding the Tour de France. However he is in no rush to focus fully on the Tour, preferring to wait until the moment is right and the course perhaps suits him better.
Dumoulin is intelligent and balanced; he is skilled at keeping external expectations under control. He continually plays down his own hopes but then celebrates and savours the moment when he exceeds them. He said he was hoping for a place on or near the podium at the Giro d'Italia but went on to wear the Maglia Rosa for nine days, win a time trial and a mountain stage to beat Nairo Quintana by 31 seconds despite losing two minutes after his famous toilet stop on the descent of the Passo Stelvio.
He became the first Dutchman to ever win the Giro d'Italia, with his successful 2017 season earning him the title of Dutch Sportsman of the year.
"I'd hoped to finish as close as possible to the podium but it would also have been satisfied with seventh place. Never in my wildest dreams did I think I'd win the Giro d'Italia," Dumoulin told Dutch newspaper De Telegraaf in a personal review of his season.
Dumoulin describes his time trial world title in Bergen as his best day of 2017. The three weeks of the Giro d'Italia, was more of a learning process about his own ability and a roller coaster of emotions. The highs included chasing down Quintana and then winning on the climb to Oropa, followed by the anger and disappointment of losing time to his biggest rivals on the stage to Bormio due to his improvised toilet stop.
"The stage win in Oropa as my best win of the year. It was very cool, unexpectedly," Dumoulin said, still showing the modesty that has made him so likeable.
"Despite that stage victory I still didn't see myself as the man to beat for overall victory. It was a flat stage with a long climb at the end. I've proven that I could handle that. I still didn't know what to expect on the really high mountains stages with three hors category climbs."
Dumoulin famously said: "I don't want to write history because of shitting in the bushes. I want to write history by getting the pink jersey in Milan."
He now explains that he went on to win in Milan because kept his cool after his sudden stop on the Stelvio by riding a managed pursuit of his rivals, using his time trial skills to pace his effort all the way to the finish in Bormio.
"You can see that I only lost two minutes in the last 33 kilometres while chasing, so you can't say that I had bad legs that day," he explained.
"I had two options after the incident. I could do everything I could to get back to the first group as quickly as possible or ride a time trial to the finish. I decided to fall back on my specialty. I think this was a good decision."
Dumoulin started the final time trial to the centre of Milan 53 seconds down on Quintana. However he was soon the virtual race leader and could celebrate in Piazza Duomo. He reveals he was always confident of pulling on the Maglia Rosa and celebrating with his teammates. The Giro d'Italia had been a successful test of his maturity.
"I knew it the morning that if I didn't have bad luck I would win the Giro," he told De Telegraaf.
"I was really sure of my ability. I had slept perfectly that night and I just felt ready. Although the interests were huge, I hardly felt any stress, I just had to do my thing.
Stronger than ever going into 2018
Dumoulin enjoyed his Giro d'Italia success during the summer and got back in training while everyone else was focused on the Tour de France.
He finished fourth at the Clasica San Sebastian and then took an impressive victory at the BinckBank Tour despite only finishing third in the time trial stage. Overall success confirmed his wide range of talents.
Dumoulin travelled to Bergen early and played a key role in Team Sunweb winning the team time trial world title. He then completed a rare double by blasting to the finish summit of the individual time trial on the climb to Mount Fløyen. He beat Primoz Roglic by 57 seconds, with Chris Froome a distant third at 1:21.
His numbers were so high he thought his power metre was broken.
"In the weeks before the World Championships I really didn't think I'd have good legs Bergen. Yet I manage to keep relaxed during the last few days before the time trial. I'm pleased to have that quality. It confirms yet again that I know how to prepare for specific races. I will definitely take that trust into the future."
On December 19 Dumoulin was crowned as Dutch Sportsman of the year. He movingly thanked his partner for her support, admitting she had kept him grounded during all the attention and celebrations. His mind was already focused on 2018, with a return to the Giro d'Italia decided as the next goal. Full details of his 2018 season will be revealed at the Team Sunweb official team presentation in Berlin on January 4.
"Recognition is beautiful and it's a great way to start the New Year," Dumoulin said, sharing his philosophy on ambition and success.
"You always want to improve but that doesn't always work out. Perhaps I am going to win the Tour within the next three years. But what else should I do? Is that it? I now understand that you also have to find personal satisfaction and peace from the achievements that I have made. It does not always have to be better. I want better, but if that doesn't work out then I accept that. With that in mind, I will go into 2018."