• Victory in the Giro will change Tom Dumoulin, for better or worse. (Getty Images)Source: Getty Images
"This victory is not going to change my whole life," Tom Dumoulin said after winning the 100th edition of the Giro d'Italia. Anthony Tan says this is only the beginning.
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Cycling Central
29 May 2017 - 3:59 PM  UPDATED 29 May 2017 - 4:26 PM

"I'm not here to make history for shitting in the bushes, I'm here to write history for taking the pink jersey to Milan."

Tom Dumoulin said as much in a press conference the day after Toilet-gate, when, on the sixteenth stage, he went off-piste for something other than a piss, 35 kilometres from the finish in Bormio. I'm being slightly facetious here, but the reality is that if he took 32 seconds longer to do his business in the bushes, he would have lost the Giro d'Italia. Or, had his rivals waited for him, he would have likely won by three minutes and the centenary Giro would not be the second tightest podium ever. (In the 1974 edition, just 33 seconds separated winner Eddy Merckx from Gianbattista Baronchelli and Felice Gimondi.)

The physical aside, much of the appeal lies with his geniality and, to an extent, his naivety.

Once again, I'll paraphrase what Irish rider Daniel Martin told me after he won the ninth stage of the 2013 Tour de France to Bagnéres de Bigorre: "The person who has the least bad day will win the race."

Contrary to what you might think, Dumoulin revealed Sunday it was not the stage to Bormio that was his jour sans but three days later, when he lost the maglia rosa to Nairo Quintana. It was in the first third of the nineteenth stage, on the long descent of the Sappada climb, but again involved a decision to relieve himself. This time the Dutchman took a 'number one' just as Quintana and Vincenzo Nibali, the two who flanked him on the final podium, coalesced at the front. "The hardest stage of the Giro was three days ago when they attacked me on (the) downhill. After the intestinal troubles I had (on the stage to Bormio), I knew I would have some food problems. The good thing is that on a bad day like that I lost only one minute. I had the experience of losing much more at the Vuelta (in 2015). I stayed calm and I limited the losses this time."

Speaking of his progression from time triallist to Grand Tour champion, the Dutchman, still only 26, said: "I was never a bad climber. I always had that in me. I never trained in the hills really when I was young. There are no long climbs around (my home city of) Maastricht. But 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. I didn't lose much weight; I'm maybe two kilos lighter than I was three years ago."

Dumoulin wins the 100th Giro d'Italia in a Milan thriller
Tom Dumoulin (Sunweb) smashed out a perfect time trial to win the 100th Giro d'Italia by 31 seconds from Nairo Quintana (Movistar), the first Dutchman to win the Italian grand tour. His compatriot Jos van Emden (LottoNL-Jumbo) won the stage.

Of course, it would be remiss not to mention that friendship has its benefits.

On the penultimate stage, Quintana, Nibali, Thibaut Pinot, Ilnur Zakarin and Domenico Pozzovivo had Dumoulin distanced after the climb to Foza, its summit 15 kilometres of false flat from the finish in Asiago. The latter was also in a group of five, but other than vying for a stage win, they had no reason to assist. "I'm forever thankful and grateful for the work that Bauke Mollema, Bob Jungels and Adam Yates did for me," a magnanimous Dumoulin said at the finish, whose companions helped him to mitigate his losses to just 15 seconds.

"They were pretty much not really fighting anymore for any spots on GC, because they are pretty much fixed on their spots on GC, so (what they did) was definitely to help me. I'm very happy about that and very thankful.

"I know Yates and Jungels and Mollema, the three of them actually, for a long time and we've always been good together." Not just friends, then, but friends in high places; expect the favour to be reciprocated somewhere down the line.

The first Dutchman to win the Giro and the first from the Netherlands to triumph at a Grand Tour since Joop Zoetemelk won the 1980 Tour de France, Dumoulin said "I don't want to compare myself to anyone," despite obvious similarities between he and Bradley Wiggins, as well as five-time Tour champion Miguel Indurain. I can understand that, and what from we've seen of him - particularly in that hellishly mountainous final week, and how he responded in moments of crisis - there is the potential to be better, especially if one considers the asterisks that accompany most, if not all, the Grand Tour-winning performances in the '90s. "Dumoulin didn't look like the main rival for us before the race," Quintana, the runner-up, said, "yet he bested everyone with excellent TT and mountain performances. He really deserves this victory." His Movistar team manager Eusebio Unzué agreed the display was one of a complete rider, not simply a time trial specialist that defends himself in the mountains: "He already showed some signs of his GC-contending calibre at the 2015 Vuelta, and succeeded in grand style here at the Giro. His performance over the TTs and also in the mountains was impeccable."

Giro 100: That's a Wrap

The physical aside, much of the appeal lies with his geniality and, to an extent, his naivety. Take these comments from Sunday's press conference, for instance: "Maybe people will approach me differently, but I really hope I can walk around in Maastricht without being treated like a superhero (...) I don't feel myself like a champion, but I almost feel like it when I see my name on the trophy (...) I hope for more in the future but for now I'm just happy to be here. The Giro victory is not going to change my whole life."

Sport may not be everything, Tom, but in a country of 17 million with a rich history of cycling champions, where sporting heroes are akin to superheroes, and where riding on two wheels is the dominant mode of transport, the feat will, for better or worse, change you.

For now, it's good to see he can still laugh at himself. "I still made history with shitting in the woods."