Dumoulin is back and he’s beginning to feel like himself again
Tom Dumoulin made his return to racing with 16th place in the 10.9 km opening time trial of the Tour de Suisse, 221 days after he last raced.
The former ITT world champion and winner of the 2018 Giro d’Italia announced in January that he would be taking an indefinite break from the sport. He is still unsure what his future holds after the Tokyo Olympic Games, but since his public reappearance at the Amstel Gold Race this spring, he’s feeling more himself again.
“The problem of the last three years was that I lost the pleasure in my job and the race,” Dumoulin told the Belgian newspaper Het Nieuwsblad before starting the Tour de Suisse. “I had forgotten what I liked and didn’t like. Now I know that again. That period without racing was very instructive for me. I know again what kind of rider Tom Dumoulin is.”
“What follows after Tokyo, I don’t know yet. Maybe it will be chasing classifications in big tours again. Maybe I want to set other goals, or maybe I don’t want to be a rider at all anymore.”
Dumoulin is at the Tour de Suisse with a young but strong Jumbo-Visma team that is targeting the GC with Sam Oomen, a rider who helped Dumoulin to his Giro d’Italia victory, and then followed in his footsteps by transferring from Team Sunweb (now DSM) to Jumbo-Visma.
“I will set myself small goals during each stage and if I can help Sam with that, it’ll be a pleasure. I don’t see myself in a position to be top 10 in the general classification right now, and that’s not the intention. I am not here to kill myself, but to have a good week of racing in the legs. You shouldn’t forget that I have only trained for a month.”
Though he’s only done a month of training, Dumoulin surprised himself during a performance test after just a couple weeks at altitude, the results of which apparently persuaded him to make the Tokyo Olympics a goal once more.
Dumoulin has won 16 time trials in his career, including at least one at each Grand Tour, the 2017 World Championships and two at the Tour de Suisse in 2015 where he finished third overall. His current aim, however, is to get back to the level that took him to second behind Tadej Pogačar (UAE Team Emirates) on stage 20 of the 2020 Tour de France.
“My plan is to be as good in Tokyo as I was then. I also believe it’s possible, otherwise I wouldn’t have started this plan. Of course, everything will have to fall into the right place, and you can ask yourself if I have enough time to grow to my very best level, but I am confident that it will work.
“These time trials will make me a bit wiser,” he said of the Tour de Suisse tests. “Although you can’t compare these time trials with the ones in Tokyo. That doesn’t really matter, I see these time trials more as a test to realize what my weak points are.”
While he evaluates his physical condition in Switzerland, there are still questions to be answered about the pressures and expectations faced by anyone competing at the highest levels.
“Of course I am not alone,” Dumoulin said. “There are many top athletes and certainly also non-top athletes who sometimes struggle with themselves, but I don’t want to present myself as a role model. I have no advice for others. Each person can figure that out for himself. During the training camp in Livigno, I certainly found the love of cycling again.
“I was in a deep place before. Besides the mental difficulties, I was overtrained so physically I was not healthy either. As soon as I took some rest, I felt better. When I got back on the bike, I felt that the rider Dumoulin was not ready yet – I still have that feeling now.”
His next big test will be the 23.2 km stage 7, a mountain time trial with a lightning-fast descent to the finish line. After the Tour de Suisse, Dumoulin will race the Dutch national time trial championship before returning to train at altitude while his team aim to win the Tour de France with Primož Roglič.