Best Grand Tour I’ve Seen

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What a win! What a win! The night before the TT, I came to my senses and stopped rooting for my picks to come true and looked at the race. I love Nairo, but Dumoulin was the good guy here, he got screwed over, he’s been the best, why was I not fully rooting for him until the night before? What a hero! Tom vs the World! A good and classy guy too! This is the first of many wins to come. There are just too many times guys who show such a flash of potential early in their careers then target a race forever after and it doesn’t work out for them or the build up is so slow. I’m so glad Dumoulin quickly blew through that phase since his epic collapse in the 2015 Vuelta. This is such a remarkable win: Sunweb have never had anyone on a GT podium before and can’t come close to fielding a squad like Sky or Movistar, and Dumoulin still hasn’t even won a big one week stage race! These GTs suit him better, because they have way more TTing than a week long race where you’re lucky if there’s over 20k of TT. But still, this is the first major stage race he adds to his palmares!!!!! Amazing win, I want to watch a really good documentary about Giro 100 in ten or fifteen years.

Now I’m gonna say I’ve only “properly” watched around fifteen grand tours in my life, but I can easily say this was the best one I’ve seen. I will not go into claiming it’s the best ever, I kinda doubt it will be, and I’d have to do some thorough research on all of them! Anyways to this one. It was the best, because it went down to the wire all the way to the last stage.

I found the first week to be engaging, at the very least the finishes were good if the majority of the stage was boring. This is all I really want from a first week of the Giro or Tour, I’m already pretty pumped to be watching a Grand Tour. Last year the first half of the Tour was amazing and that made the second half even more boring when it didn’t and couldn’t live up to it! This route was perfectly balanced with a fill of GC battles, breakaway heroics, sprints, and unpredictable finishes that went to the wire. I loved seeing early breaks barely stick like Izagirre’s in between amazing sprints. We came to Blockhaus and the TT and the GC race officially began! Then the KOM competition really began and we had the work horses like Landa, Rolland, LL Sanchez, and Fraile in the breaks every day working their butts off for points. If it wasn’t a day for them, the GC boys were there to play. Dumoulin, Quintana, Nibali, and Pinot, top four on GC, all took stages! That is what fans dream of: everyone taking spoils and clashing head to head, round after round! I really thought this would be wrapped up on stage 18 as well, but then Dumoulin starts cracking and falling off the pace. And it all comes down to five guys within a 1:15 going into the last stage, a TT no less, with Dumoulin the hero and best TTist in the world at 53 seconds down.

This was the best Grand Tour I’ve ever seen, but there is still room for improvement! Two major things that were missing.

First, the opportunities were there in the last week for people to go blow for blow and really duke it out in the mountains. This didn’t happen very much, most of the contenders were on their knees! You can’t complain too much about a war of attrition, because that is usually a good sign we are truly in a post-doping era. Still Quintana, Quintana, Quintana you didn’t take advantage of Dumoulin’s cracks on Stage 19, you just followed moves and the jersey came back to you. In Quintana’s defense he was apparently sick, but that wasn’t the form we were expecting from Quintana, hopefully he’ll have better stuff for the Tour.

The second thing is more rare to come by, but the best Grand Tour will have this story-line in it. This was just a great sporting spectacle on a very round number edition of a very historical race. The winner was a dark horse very talented Dutchman who gave up pursuing a medical career. His competition was a Colombian climber from a poor mountain village who was already a well-established name trying to build up his titles and maybe make significant recent history. The other rivals included the best Italian of the generation who isn’t a very well liked by many cycling fans and riders, and then a Frenchman looking to find form and build his confidence again. Yes, Dumoulin ended a long Dutch drought, and he overcame some unfair misfortune throughout the race; but he himself said he didn’t really care about the Dutch drought and his misfortune was really more of a goofy embarrassing situation that was a little bit his own fault. This Giro was an entertainingly great watch, but it was only as inspiring as any other cycling race and it didn’t have many implications beyond the sport for parties involved (or so far as I can tell right now in history). It’s not like it was as significant as the 1980 Miracle Game in hockey for the US, or the Cubs winning the World Series for Chicago, or even from what I read Gino Bartali’s 1948 Tour de France victory for Italy. Those wins made a difference to people around the world who would never come in contact with their heroes. This Giro was just a thrilling coming out party for Tom Dumoulin, his first big victory of many to come! Like I said, you can’t ask or expect this, but the Best Grand Tour will have some implication that is bigger than the race. For example, if the race is a nail biter: the first Frenchman to win the Tour since Hinault, that could easily turn into the best GT ever.

This GT had a perfect route that led to each individual day being an exciting stand-alone chapter. There probably were cycling legends battling here, I do think Dumoulin and Quintana will go down as eternal greats and hopefully is only the first of their epic clashes. But that is absolutely all this was: a great race on a historic edition, nothing more to the rest of the world. This does not hold the race back, because it’s currently the best GT I’ve seen and I will be comparing every GT to this one, but hopefully it will be topped in the future by something just as nail-biting that transcends the sport.

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