The 100th edition of the Giro d’Italia had a distinctly Colombian flavour, with five stage wins, a podium, a purple jersey and a key role throughout. Oli Pritchard has the lowdown.
The Colombian mood at the 2017 Giro d’Italia was mixed. Two Colombians won stages and wore pink. Nairo Quintana failed to live up to his billing as clear pre-race favourite, but new superstar Fernando Gaviria arrived in spectacular form. Colombia has rarely had men to compete in the business end of high-speed sprint finishes, but young Gaviria changed all that as he racked up an impressive four victories in his maiden Grand Tour. Those four victories also gave him the purple points jersey – making him the first Latin American ever to win it.
Most impressively, Gaviria showed he could win in different circumstances, popping out of nowhere for his first win, taking the next two despite being marked and topping it off by fighting his way out of a congested field in stage 13. Although the Giro d’Italia has less competition than the Tour, this is a debut to the world of sprinting that is not to be sniffed at. At a mere 22 years of age, the Antioqueño speedster will surely now be a force to be reckoned with over the next decade or so, meaning Colombian cycling fans can watch the whole three weeks of Tours to come.
Nairo had a tougher time of it, climbing his way into pink on the Blockhaus. He lost it the next day, though, following a tough time trial in Montefalco. Tom Dumoulin won the stage and took over the race, looking good until a bout of tummy trouble caused him to lose two minutes in the middle of the final week. That led to a wave of attacks from both Nairo and Italian veteran Vincenzo Nibali, eventually culminating in Nairo taking the pink jersey with three days to go.
However, with a slender lead and poor time trialling ability, it was Dumoulin’s race to lose. The final day came and Dumoulin repeated the previous week’s trick, putting 1’24 into Nairo to win the race by 31 seconds and become the first Dutchman to win the Giro. Nairo, sadly, joined Laurent Fignon as the only other man to have lost the leader’s jersey on the final day of a Grand Tour.
Next month sees the start of the Tour de France, where Nairo will again be one of the leading favourites. The field is stronger than in the Giro, and Britain’s Chris Froome will again be the man to beat. Froome rates Porte as favourite, although Nairo will surely stake his claim. Gaviria, though, will be twiddling his thumbs elsewhere as he is being rested by his team. The race begins in Düsseldorf on July 1 but the Colombian interest will really peak around July 13 when the action moves into the high mountains of the Pyrenees.