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MADRID (VN) — It’s not the Hollywood ending Tom Dumoulin (Giant-Alpecin) was hoping for.
Dumoulin’s dream-like run across the Vuelta a España ended bitterly when he was gunned by Astana, dropping from first to sixth, out of the red jersey and off the final podium.
No Dutch rider has won a grand tour since 1980, and none have finished on a grand tour podium since 1990, but Dumoulin will now join the ranks of historic grand tour implosions.
For every winner in cycling, there is a peloton full of losers. Some take it harder than others. Joaquim Rodríguez (Katusha), who managed to finish second in this Vuelta, has a career full of grand tour close calls and late-race collapses. Laurent Fignon is forever remembered not for the two editions of the Tour de France he won, but for the 1989 Tour he lost by eight seconds on the final stage.
Of course, there are two sides to every story. For each implosion, there is another story of great tactics, daring riding, and excellent teamwork to deliver victory. Here are just a few of the top implosions in cycling history:
5. Cadel Evans — 2002 Giro d’Italia
In his grand tour debut, former mountain biker Cadel Evans found himself the unlikely pink jersey holder late in the 2002 Giro, taking the maglia rosa in Corvara on the 16th stage. Italian journalists were enraged when Evans admitted he didn’t know who Fausto Coppi was, but Evans’ time in pink was short-lived. The very next stage, the Italians threw everything at Evans, with the cagey Paolo Savoldelli attacking from far in the final major mountain stage at Folgaria to upend the upstart Australian. Evans tumbled out of the top 10, eventually finishing 14th overall. Evans would later become the first Australian to win the Tour de France in 2011.
4. Pierre Brambilla — 1947 Tour de France
These days, the final stage of the Tour is a gentleman’s sprint along the Champs-Élysées, but in the first Tour after World War II, the final stage into Paris was a real dogfight. Pierre Brambilla started with a promising 53-second lead, but French rider Jean Robic, who started the stage third at 2:58 back, uncorked a long-range attack with another rider, taking back 13 minutes to win the Tour on the final day. Long before race radios, Brambilla lost sight of Robic and lost the Tour. Robic, a diminutive climber who raced from 1943 to 1961, would never win the Tour again, though he did win the world title in 1950. Brambilla would never lead the Tour again, and became the first rider in Tour history to lose the yellow jersey on the last stage.
3. Joaquim Rodriguez — 2012 Vuelta a Espana
After a career of close calls, it finally looked like the stars were aligning for Joaquim Rodríguez during the 2012 Vuelta a España. Second to Ryder Hesjedal by just 16 seconds at the Giro d’Italia earlier that season, Rodríguez was on the form his life, carrying the red leader’s jersey into the second rest day. With just one major mountaintop finale at Bola del Mundo waiting on the penultimate stage, no one was expecting much in the transition stage to Fuente Dé the next morning, with a second-category finale at Fuente Dé. Arch-rival Alberto Contador saw Rodríguez struggling early in the stage, however, and his Saxo Bank team soon set a trap, sending riders up the road with Contador uncorking a long-distance attack. Rodríguez tumbled to third and Contador won. Rodríguez would fold yet again in the 2015 Vuelta, but rebounded to finish second behind Fabio Aru, yet he’s never won a grand tour.
2. Jan Ullrich — 1998 Tour de France
After barnstorming to victory in the 1997 Tour, everyone expected Jan Ullrich to be cycling’s next five-time Tour winner. He took a promising lead in the stage 7 time trial, but Italian climber Marco Pantani blew the race apart with a long-distance attack through rain and cold over the Col du Galibier. Ullrich was isolated early and eventually lost nearly nine minutes. Ullrich would bounce back to win two more stages before finishing second behind Pantani. That year’s Tour was tarnished by the Festina scandal, and neither Ullrich nor Pantani would win another Tour.
1. Laurent Fignon — 1989 Tour de France
In perhaps cycling’s most famous collapse, Laurent Fignon lost the Tour in a closing-day time trial in Paris to Greg LeMond. A winner of two Tours early in his career, Fignon had bounced back from knee injuries to win the Giro earlier in the season, and carried what appeared to be an insurmountable lead of 50 seconds in the final-day 24.5km time trial. LeMond, using aerodynamic triathlon bar extenders, took 58 seconds on Fignon to win the Tour by just eight seconds in one of the most famous cycling exploits ever. Fignon was haunted by that Tour defeat, and would never win another grand tour. Once asked if he was the man who lost the Tour by eight seconds, Fignon famously replied, “No, I am the man who won two Tours.” Fignon died of cancer in 2010.