It was a Giro d'Italia of many parts for Sam Oomen, who played a key supporting role for Tom Dumoulin, helped himself to ninth place overall and underscored his potential in three-week races. Small wonder that the Sunweb rider was in demand among the sizeable Dutch media contingent on the Giro ahead of the final stage in Rome on Sunday.
Now in his third season as a professional, Oomen signalled his quality with victory at the Tour de l'Ain in 2016, and was enjoying an assured Grand Tour debut at the 2017 Vuelta a España only to be forced out of the race through illness.
Oomen caught the eye for his consistency and staying power on this Giro, perhaps most notably when he helped to lay the groundwork for Dumoulin's quartet of attacks on Chris Froome's maglia rosa on the last summit finish at Cervinia.
"I'm just happy that I finished a Grand Tour in a healthy way," Oomen said beyond the line in Cervinia. "I saw last year in the Vuelta a España how quickly things can change. One day your stomach gets fucked up and you're back home. I was a little bit worried for this Giro because every day was so tough. We had one or two easy sprint stages and the rest were all chaotic and pretty tough, so that point gives me a good feeling."
The strength in depth of the supporting cast at Sunweb does not match the wealth of options surrounding Froome at Sky, particularly in the high mountains, but Dumoulin was still able to rely on Oomen at some pivotal moments in the Giro. When Dumoulin crashed on the run-in to Gualdo Tadino on stage 10, for instance, it was Oomen who coolly guided him back to the gruppo.
Dumoulin ultimately fell 46 seconds short of repeating his Giro victory of a year ago, and the decisive day in the race proved to be stage 19 to Bardonecchia, where Froome attacked alone on the Colle delle Finestre with 80 kilometres to go and somehow held off Dumoulin and the chasing group to win by three minutes.
Oomen was unable to stay with his leader on the Finestre, and he regretted that he had not been able to aid Dumoulin in his pursuers on the climb to Sestriere and long valley to the foot of the Jafferau, where Froome never conceded an inch of his advantage. The 22-year-old Oomen was still among the best of the rest on day where one rider put mammoth gaps into the rest, placing 8th on the stage, 8:23 behind Froome.
"I also wondered that myself if we could've done something different," Oomen said. "[Friday] was a critical moment on the Finestre, Tom needed someone there in the final to keep the gap close to Froome, someone like me, but I wasn't able to follow the best five guys on the Finestre. That's the only thing."
On the final haul towards Cervinia the following day, meanwhile, Oomen and Dumoulin attempted to discommode Froome, even if they realised their prospects of overturning the deficit were slim at that late juncture. “I think we did everything we could, there was nothing more we could do,” Oomen said. "We gave it our all, and this is the result."
Oomen's own result – not to mention his youth – will surely only reaffirm his status within a Sunweb team which already boasts Grand Tour leaders in Dumoulin and Wilco Kelderman. Although Dumoulin has yet to confirm his participation at the Tour de France, it is likely that he will line out in the Vendée on July 7 supported by Kelderman, who will in turn lead Sunweb's challenge at the Vuelta a España.
In the here and now, Oomen has proven his value as a deluxe domestique, but speaking in Rome on Sunday, Dumoulin agreed that his young teammate had the ability to lead at a Grand Tour in the future.
"Yes, I saw that the last few weeks. He has the capacity," Dumoulin said. "I think it's good for him that he is in the shadow a little bit at the moment. It's good for his development, and I hoped he learned also a lot in these last few weeks. It was really nice to have him by my side.
"He's amazing. He's super laid back, so he has a little bit of the same character as me. When I was his age or maybe one or two years older, I was walking into the same issues as he is. I really see a lot of myself in him."
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