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Bouwman's triumph: unique link with Dumoulin basis for victory

Bouwman's triumph: unique link with Dumoulin basis for victory

Friday the thirteenth. Considered by many a day of misfortune. In Italy, however, it is not. Last week Koen Bouwman experienced his best day on the bike so far. A report on Bouwman's day, preceded by an extraordinary journey.

Friday the thirteenth. It is a little after five o'clock. In Potenza, Bouwman crosses the finish line in stage 7 of the 2022 Giro d'Italia with his hands in the air. In the background, teammate Tom Dumoulin also puts his hands up. Bouwman has just achieved his greatest success as a professional cyclist. "You are so lucky, boy", Sam Oomen says to the blond winner of the day after his arrival. "I'm so happy for him. He deserves this more than anyone else", Dumoulin adds. "I think this is ten times better than winning myself."

Early in the stage, Bouwman and Dumoulin go on the attack. Bouwman sneaks along in Wout Poels' wheel in the attractive opening hour of the hilly stage. Dumoulin tries to neutralise the competition shortly behind but ends up in the breakaway. "Initially, it was not my intention to be in the breakaway. I tried to protect Koen's attempt to break away and jump with everyone who was attacking."

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Bouwman is only too happy with Dumoulin's presence. "We had a nice group at the front. With Tom's presence, Poels and Bauke Mollema, Dutch riders were well-represented in the front group of seven. I said a Dutch rider had to win and that we had to be careful not to interfere with each other. But with Davide Formolo, among others, that wasn't a given."

"It was a perfect day for escapees. The peloton didn't really make an effort to catch us. I felt very strong during the day and managed to grab many mountain points."

So many that Bouwman secures the blue mountain jersey. He is clearly one of the breakaway's strongest. With Dumoulin, Mollema and Formolo, the Gelderlander stays in front of the race. "In the final, we rode a high tempo. The accelerations succeeded each other at a rapid pace."

In the final of the stage, Bouwman has to drop out briefly on one of the climbs. "Despite feeling really good, I had one bad moment. That was also a surprise for me. I could not show my explosiveness at that moment. Fortunately, I maintained a constant pace to catch up with the other guys. I was able to recover in the descent."

"The pieces of the puzzle then all fell into place"

Koen Bouwman

Bouwman then knows how to counter Mollema and Formolo's attacks in the ascending meters of the stage's final phase. "Those last steep parts suited me well. I could undo Bauke and Davide's pinpricks. I was strong enough for that. The pieces of the puzzle then all fell into place. The team's plan worked out well. This was a real team performance."

Bouwman mainly refers to his teammate Dumoulin's work. "The fact that a former Giro winner rides as a simple servant in front of me is exceptional. I am very much aware of that. I am so grateful to Tom for what he has meant to me in this stage. We know each other well. In the spring, we spent a few weeks together in Colombia. In the run-up to the Giro, we went together on altitude training. That has strengthened our bond. I can say that it is special to have these kinds of guys around me."

Dumoulin and Bouwman decided to go to South America in the spring to train in the Colombian mountains for a few weeks. "Tom asked me if I wanted to go with him. He was looking for a training buddy. He asked me when I was cycling next to him. I had to think about it for 300 metres."

"Today is his day"

Tom Dumoulin

"In Colombia, I found out what a great person Koen is", cheers Dumoulin. "He's a fantastic guy. We get along very well. In Colombia, I also discovered how fast Koen is. So it doesn't surprise me that he is capable of winning a Giro stage. He is the team's silent force. He is always cheerful and always hardworking. He always rides in the service of his teammates. Today is his day. And he deserves it more than anyone."

This unique bond is sealed months later in the Giro d'Italia with a stage victory for Bouwman. "It was really an incredibly beautiful day. I have no words to describe how beautiful this is. I will remember this for the rest of my life."

Bouwman says he is not yet satiated in the current Giro. "We are now a week into this beautiful race. This Giro has definitely already succeeded for me. But I believe there are still a lot of opportunities for our team. We are aiming for even greater success. Everything that follows now is a bonus."

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