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Tom Dumoulin (L) and Chris Froome (R) at the 2018...

Froome, Dumoulin still waiting for 2020 debuts

Illness will force Dutch star to miss Tirreno and San Remo, while Froome on track to race this month in high-profile comeback.

Tom Dumoulin and Chris Froome are heading in opposite directions, at least in terms of preparing for their respective season debuts.

Neither have raced since pulling out of the Critérium du Dauphiné last June. Neither notched a win in 2019. And after recovering from injuries and setbacks, both are keen to return to their top level of 2018.

At least for Dumoulin, it will have to wait a little longer.

The Dutch star confirmed Tuesday he is suffering from illness, and did not start the Volta a la Comunitat Valenciana last week as planned. He has since pulled out of scheduled starts at Tirreno-Adriatico and Milano-Sanremo, and will miss a scheduled altitude camp this week. That means his season debut might not come until the Itzulia Basque Country in early April.

Froome, meanwhile, continues to target the UAE Tour (February 23-29) for his high-profile return to racing after his devastating crash last June. The four-time Tour de France winner has yet to define his racing schedule after that other than to say he hopes to be competitive in time for the Tour, in July.

All eyes will be on their respective comebacks. Both pulled out of last year’s Dauphiné, with Dumoulin citing a nagging knee injury from a crash during the 2019 Giro, and Froome nearly seeing his career end when he smashed into a wall during a time trial preview ride. Of the two, Dumoulin is expected to have a smoother return to competition as he’s otherwise fully recovered from his struggles of 2019.

“It’s such a shame because I was feeling amazing and I couldn’t wait for the season to start,” Dumoulin wrote on Instagram. “Too bad I need to wait a little longer now.”

It was during his forced break to recover from a knee injury last summer that Dumoulin decided to leave his longtime home at Sunweb and join Jumbo-Visma.

Dumoulin has already sketched out a season roadmap that will include an early season peak at the Ardennes classics, a return to the Dauphiné and Tour, before taking on the Olympic Games if he’s selected.

Expectations are high that the 29-year-old Dutchman — second to Froome in the 2018 Giro, and second to Geraint Thomas (Ineos) in the 2019 Tour — should be able to return to his winning best.

The looming uncertainty is much larger with Froome. His injuries and subsequent surgeries have thrown his cycling future into doubt. After removal of steel pins in his hip in November, he cut short a training camp in December to renew rehabilitation, a move that raised alarm bells. Ineos insists Froome is recovering well, and he recently completed a team training camp in Spain’s Gran Canaria.

“I have a new-found appreciation for being healthy and able to ride my bike,” Froome said in a message posted from Gran Canaria. “Living my best life.”

Froome is still on track to race at the UAE Tour. Ineos officials confirmed that Froome was considering racing the Jayco Herald Sun Tour last week in Australia, but decided that the UAE Tour, coming on the heels of the training camp, was a better race to manage Froome’s comeback.

Both riders’ comebacks will be closely watched.

Each is key to their respective teams in a season that is already being hyped as a clash between Jumbo-Visma and Team Ineos for the 2020 Tour. Dumoulin’s arrival bolsters Jumbo-Visma’s credentials as the team with enough firepower and depth to seriously challenge Ineos’s stranglehold on the yellow jersey. Primož Roglič, winner of the 2019 Vuelta a España, will lead the team’s attack at the Tour, with Dumoulin and Steven Kruijswijk, third in last year’s Tour, expected to play important co-captain roles.

Ineos is counting on Froome being ready in time for the Tour. Defending champion Egan Bernal and 2018 winner Geraint Thomas are also putting July at the top of their priorities for this season’s calendar.