The real story behind Tom Dumoulin´s TT suit
July 28, 2018. It is early morning in the sleepy town of Senpere, nestled in the shadow of the Atlantic Pyrenees. There is more early-morning hustle than normal in Senpere today. Logical, because today the Tour de France is in town.
July 28, 2018. It is early morning in the sleepy town of Senpere, nestled in the shadow of the Atlantic Pyrenees. There is more early-morning hustle than normal in Senpere today. Logical, because today the Tour de France is in town. EIt is the final stage before the race transfers north to Paris; a spectacular 31 kilometre time trial through the green and lush Basque Country to Espelette. In a small hotel, a handful of friends from the Etxeondo family enjoy their morning coffee together.
This time, they have not come to the Tour to work. They are cycling fans, joining the thousands of Basques who never miss their annual rendezvous with the race. Taking advantage of its proximity to home, they bring their bikes, climb the ports ahead of the race, then stand by the roadside, noisily waiting to see their idols speed past.
Yesterday, our friends rode some of the classic Pyrenean stage from Lourdes to Laruns, climbing the cruel ramps of the Tourmalet. But today has dawned overcast and wet; so typically Basque. In the end, they plan to stay dry, enjoying their breakfast for a little longer before watching the time trial in street clothes rather than cycling kit. As they prepare to leave the dining room, the clock has still not yet hit 10am. Then Paul’s phone rings. The call is from Tom Davids, one of the research and development experts of the Sunweb team, which is equipped by Etxeondo.
“Paul, where are you? We have a problem. I need to talk to Patxi. Tom’s chrono suit has disappeared.”
Tom is Dumoulin. The world time trial champion, the best in the world against the watch. Later that afternoon, he is expected to fight for the stage win and a place on the podium in Paris. His first podium in Le Tour. Davids had been calling Patxi but has been unable to reach him due to patchy network coverage.
Paul hangs up and runs down the hall to look for Amaia Rodrigo. At the same moment, Patxi’s phone finally beeps. A text message, from Tom Dumoulin.
“Patxi , I have a problem. The suit I had for today’s chrono has been lost. My start time is at 16:00 but I don’t have spare kit. Would you have any in the factory? Would it be possible to get it here in time?”
Across the border in Spain, Paco Rodrigo, Etxeondo’s founder, is relaxing at home. It is the first day of his vacation. Well deserved. He gets out of bed and puts on some music. Edith Piaf fills the air while the coffee gurgles gently in the percolator. Then the phone rings. It is his daughter Amaia, calling from Senpere. Anxiety crackling in her voice, she tells him the story. Dumoulin, Sunweb and Etxeondo’s star rider, has no chrono suit for the final and decisive time trial of the Tour.
Paco is already thinking. Calculating how to revive the Etxeondo machine from its summer slumber. He forgets the coffee, lowers the volume of the chords that resonate so well in Piaf’s throat and starts making calls. To Xabi, who jumps out of bed. To Flori, who is on the way to the beach to spend a lazy Saturday. To Altuna, who has a hair appointment in the hairdresser. To Mariaje.
Everyone fields Paco´s request in the same spirit: a genuine commitment to the values of Etxeondo. To things done well, rather than contractual obligation. A business that is more than a business; a family. It is Saturday and summer, but it doesn´t matter.
Everyone fields Paco’s request in the same spirit: a genuine commitment to the values of Etxeondo. To things done well, rather than contractual obligation. A business that is more than a business; a family. It is Saturday and summer, but it doesn’t matter. They all park their lives, take the car and accelerate towards Irura, to the Etxeondo factory.
A five-strong team, putting craftsmanship and experience to the ultimate test against the clock. Their very own contre la montre. The patterns, the cuts of the fabric, the paper to print the fabric. And meanwhile, Patxi sat next to Ibon in the car, flying down the road to pick up the finished garment. When he gets out of the car outside the factory, there are only the sleeves still to be sewn. Something normally made in a month, complete in two hours.
Patxi texts Dumoulin at noon: “I hope we get there in time.”“I cross my fingers. Thank you very much for making the effort,” replies the Dutchman. Ibon and Patxi are in the car again, speeding back towards Senpere. Then, Patxi calls the Sunweb team. A Tour de France time trial means chaos on surrounding roads. And Patxi, there as a spectator with his bike to enjoy a few days of cycling, does not have accreditation for the car. The side roads are completely closed and the main highway jammed.
More calls. The organization of the Tour allow Patxi and Ibon through and Sunweb send a car to meet them. Just an hour later, they rendezvous. Patxi climbs into the Dutch team car, heading for the bus, parked close to the start.
Patxi texts Dumoulin again: “I’m here, I have a gift for you.” It’s 1.45 in the afternoon and there are still two hours left before he is due to start.
When they arrive at the Sunweb bus, Dumoulin has just returned from a reconnaissance of the final 30 kilometres, and is giving the media his impressions of the course. Then he sees Patxi and turns back to the cameras. “Etxeondo have saved my day. They have made a new chrono suit from scratch for me,” he tells reporters.
When he finishes, Patxi hands him the garment and Paul, next to him, passes him the phone, with Paco on the other end. “Thank you very, very much, ” is the only thing the World Champion can say. “Come, you know what you are. It’s your champion moment,” Paco replies.
Dumoulin hangs up and hugs Patxi. After a fraught morning, the Dutchman is tranquil and relaxed. He has his secret weapon and knows he will be able to fly. And that is exactly what happens. Dumoulin pulverizes the field, winning the time trial by just one second from Chris Froome, a result which gives him second place on the podium in Paris.
“This morning we realized that we had lost my chrono suit. So Etxeondo, our clothing sponsor from the Basque Country, brought us a new one. They have made a new suit this morning and I´m wearing it now”.
“It has been an amazing day , and also very nervous,” explained Dumoulin afterwards. “This morning we realized that we had lost my chrono suit. So Etxeondo, our clothing sponsor from the Basque Country, brought us a new one. They have made a new suit this morning and I’m wearing it now.”
A single second. The difference between winning and losing. A reward for the commitment of those who paused their summer vacation to return to work early one Saturday morning. A reward for the team spirit that brought Patxi by car from Senpere to Etxeondo and back. The fastest chrono suit in the world, worn by the best time trialist in the world, winning in the biggest bike race in the world.
A story that could not have been made up, even in the best marketing campaign.