Dumoulin's Giro d'Italia a symbolic 'tipping point' for Giant-Alpecin

Tom Dumoulin's pink jersey, being paraded by a home rider in front of an adoring Dutch public at the Giro d'Italia, is already imbued with plenty of meaning, but it takes on even greater significance when viewed in the light of Giant-Alpecin's tumultuous 2016 season.

It was just over three months ago that a car ploughed head-on into seven members of the team out on a training ride in Spain, leaving the riders involved injured and traumatised, and the squad as a whole severely depleted.

The team has struggled to scramble enough riders together to enter the races on its calendar, let alone seriously entertain serious ambitions of winning them. So when Dumoulin powered round Friday's race-opening time trial course to earn the team's first victory of the season, it was a "tipping point", in the words of manager Iwan Spekenbrink.

"We had an accident that was bigger than cycling," he tells Cyclingnews outside the team bus in Arnhem on the morning of stage 2. "At that moment there were lives at stake.

"We had to accept the setback. Some people needed support recover and also to mentally leave it behind. We needed time and we said, 'if everyone keeps working the team will get back to full strength we will show we are better again. Just give us a bit of time'."

Unfortunately, patience is not always a word that can be applied to professional cycling, a sport where the all-important sponsors are invariably hungry to see a return on their investment. Shortly after the crash, Spekenbrink marked out the Tour de France as the point at which we might see his team back at full strength and firing on all cylinders, but it seems to have come one Grand Tour and two months early.

It should be pointed out that Dumoulin was not involved in the crash, but Chad Haga, also at the Giro, was. The American, who required 98 stitches from his face to his sternum, has surpassed expectations simply by riding the Giro, let alone finishing a hugely impressive 12th on the time trial.

"I said, 'you will see us at full strength in the Tour de France – that was my expectation, though it was dependent on medical things. But you see that the team has grown and we are now already back to a good level," said Spekenbrink.

"Now the team is getting complete. We saw it in the Ardennes Classics, where we did pretty well, Romandie as well, and this was a really nice tipping point."

Even taking Dumoulin's victory and spell in pink out of the context of the team's troubled season, it has still been a special couple of days on numerous levels.

It marks the completion of the team's collection of Grand Tour leader's jerseys, after Dumoulin wore red at last year's Vuelta a España, and Marcel Kittel wore yellow at the 2014 Tour de France. Moreover, it has all happened in the Dutch team's home country – their home city of Apeldoorn no less.

"This is a milestone for out team to wear leader jersey in all three Grand Tours," said Spekebrink. "We're a team that started out small but with a very clear vision and DNA, and we have grown, so to have achieved that milestone is not just a victory for only one rider, but for a whole group of people.

"The symbolism was big. The team hotel was 200 metres form our office, the start was 10 kilometres from our office. To have a Grand Tour in a small country in the north, and then to win: that was symbolic.

"It gave us a lot of vibe and energy. I was looking at the finish, and all these crowds, they were so happy. With that result we made so many people so happy. It's great that cycling can do that."

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