Sunweb officials are playing it coy right now, but Tom Dumoulin’s future points toward the Tour de France.
With an eye on 2018, Dumoulin and co. are waiting to see what the Tour de France organizers come up with before committing to next year’s “grande boucle.”
“We still have to make the final decision, but the Tour de France is pretty likely,” said Sunweb director Aike Visbeek. “There are a lot of rumors about what the Tour will look like. We will wait to see.”
Sooner or later, Dumoulin will take on the Tour with the full intention of winning the yellow jersey. Many see Dumoulin as the first rider to have the time trial and climbing skills to truly take on Chris Froome. That is certainly the long-term goal. But if Tour organizers present a route that is tilted against Dumoulin’s strengths, July won’t be the centerpiece of his 2018 season.
That scenario, however, is unlikely.
After enjoying a breakout 2017 season, when the 26-year-old Dutchman became the first rider to win the Giro d’Italia and the world time trial title in the same season, the Tour is the next obvious step.
Filled with confidence, Dumoulin wants the challenge of racing the Tour for the podium.
“We know if he goes to the Tour, he has to race against Chris Froome,” Visbeek said. “That is also an advantage for him. It gives him a motivation to test himself against the best.
“The Giro podium was already a very strong podium, with [Nairo] Quintana and [Vincenzo] Nibali. Tom has to bring his A-game next year to race against guys like Froome. It’s a good position start for Dumoulin next year.”
Dumoulin will close out his season at Tre Valli Varesini and the Giro di Lombardia, and then will take a breather before going into the challenges of 2018.
The Tour route will be revealed October 17, and Dumoulin will be as interested as anyone to see what they come up with. The more time trials the better for the “Butterfly from Maastricht.”
Though Tour officials deny they design a course to attract a specific rider profile, seeing a Tour route with more time trial kilometers next year won’t be a surprise. This year’s Tour was short on TTs, and though ASO likely won’t deliver a TT-friendly course like they did in 2012, more kilometers against the clock are expected.
What’s little we know about the 2018 Tour route is intriguing. The race starts in France’s Vendée with a traditional road stage, so no prologue or short time trial. There’s a likely ride over the Passage du Gois, the treacherous cobblestone causeway that’s underwater during high tide. A team time trial could be in the works in the opening stages. There are rumors of a return to the cobblestones of northern France in week 1. Dumoulin’s Sunweb team recently won the world team time trial championships as well in Norway.
The Tour will also start one week later, due to soccer’s 2018 World Cup, and next year’s race will see eight riders, instead of nine, per team. With Froome riding to join the Tour’s five-win club, the stakes couldn’t be higher.
Visbeek said Dumoulin’s ambitions don’t end with the Giro. The Tour is the ultimate challenge for any professional rider, and with his time trial prowess and climbing legs only improving, Dumoulin is poised to challenge Froome and the powerful Team Sky stranglehold on the Tour.
“He is a guy who is very focused. The biggest thing is the confidence knowing that we can do it. The challenge now is to keep working, and stay focused on the details,” Visbeek said. “Tom was making the sacrifices now for many years. To have that payback will only motivate him even more. It was an historical victory, and if he keeps working that way, there will be even more.”
So what did the Giro win mean for Dumoulin? In a word, confidence.
“Now he has the knowledge and confidence about how to win a grand tour,” Visbeek said. “And for our team, it’s even more important. Now we know how to work and manage a grand tour. And that will only help us in the future.”