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Giro d'Italia

Giro d’Italia: ‘I didn’t know the final corner was so tight,’ says stage winner Bouwman

Jumbo-Visma’s GC challenge may have come to nothing, but Koen Bouwman provided plenty to celebrate with two stage wins and a likely king of the mountains prize.

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SANTUARIO DI CASTELMONTE, Italy (VN) – Koen Bouwman’s second stage victory in this Giro d’Italia ensured the Jumbo-Visma rider all but wrapped up the blue jersey as the race’s best climber.

The 28-year-old Dutchman has shown again and again that he’s got an impressive burst of speed when sprinting for points at the top of climbs, and he confirmed that when he emerged as quickest of the five riders who contested the finale of stage 19.

There was a touch of controversy about the finish, as the riders came into the very tight left-hander 100 meters before the line with a lot of speed.

Bouwman’s final acceleration took him through to the front, while Quick-Step Alpha Vinyl’s Mauro Schmid had to brake hard to make the turn and the other three members of the group all went wide, AG2R-Citroën’s Andrea Vendrame going up the exit route for race vehicles in the melee.

“I knew there was a turn to the left with 100 meters to go, so if I wanted a chance for the victory, I knew I had to go first. I started my sprint from I think fourth position in the group. I went over the guys and went inside into the corner,” he said.

“I didn’t know the corner was that tight, actually. So we came at it with a lot of speed, maybe 40k an hour or something. So I had to brake a little, and the guys behind me had to as well,” he said. “I’m happy that nobody crashed. But in the end, I think I’m really an honest rider, and if I make a mistake I say so. But I don’t think that I made a mistake. I think I deserved this victory.”

Also read: Giro d’Italia stage 19: Koen Bouwman climbs out of break for mountaintop victory, GC top-3 hit stalemate

The Jumbo rider, the winner of the all-action stage into Naples at the end of the race’s first week, felt that he was the strongest climber in the group, but in the end he decided to trust in his sprint.

“I felt on the first-category climb in Slovenia that maybe I could drop them, but it was still too long to go from there.

“The cooperation was actually really good between the five of us into the valley. Then the final climb had steep parts, then went a bit down, then steep again, then down. I knew there were some other fast guys, but especially after such a hard day I’m one of the fastest, especially from a breakaway group. I already had one victory so I could gamble a bit, which also maybe made it a bit easier.”

He admitted that when Bora started pulled on the front of the peloton approaching the first-cat Kolovrat climb in Slovenia, he did briefly think the breakaway’s chance might disappear, but credited teammate and breakaway companion Edoardo Affini with helping to avert this possibility.

“The guys from Groupama, Quick-Step and Edoardo pulled so hard that I think at the bottom we had a nine-minute lead again, so this victory is half Eduardo’s and half mine. He did a fantastic job to get into the break, and I’m really thankful to him,” said Bouwman.

Stage 20 preview: Saving the hardest for last at the Giro

Troubled by back problems earlier in this race, he revealed that he’d been affected by them again in recent days, and that the pain had affected his performances. “The osteopath has always been able to fix it, but towards the end of stages, I always felt my back.

“The other day when Santiago Buitrago won, I actually felt strong enough on the climb to bridge to the four guys who were a one and a half minute ahead. In the final, my legs didn’t hurt that much, but my back did. I think yesterday, the easy day, helped me to recover a bit more. I still felt it today on the last climb, but not to the extent that I couldn’t push the power anymore.”

Brought to the Giro to support Jumbo’s GC push behind Tom Dumoulin and Tobias Foss, which ran out of steam in week one, Bouwman said that he doesn’t believe his success over the past fortnight will change his status.

“I’m in the team as a domestique and we have such good leaders that at almost every race we start we go for GC, and at almost every race we finish on the podium,” he explained.

“That’s really what I like to do, so I don’t think a lot will change. Maybe sometimes I’ll have a bit more freedom now to go into a break if there’s a good day, but I don’t know. I like my role in the team and probably it’ll just stay as it is.”

Arms high for Koen Bouwman. (Photo: Tim de Waele/Getty Images)