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Tom Dumoulin hasn’t raced for nearly 10 months, and the date when he will next pin a number on his jersey is still uncertain.
After missing the back half of 2019 having injured his knee in a heavy fall at the Giro d’Italia, 2020 was going to be the year for Dumoulin to make his comeback, heading up a trio of leaders with new team Jumbo-Visma at the Tour de France. But rather than spending spring racing himself into grand tour form, he’s fit and frustrated in lockdown in his Belgian home.
“I’m fit again, but at the moment I can’t do much with it,” Dumoulin said, Sunday.
Like his fellow team leaders Stephen Kruijswijk and Primoz Roglic, Dumoulin had a slow start to 2020 as his team eased their captains into form for June’s Tour de France. Dumoulin’s return to racing was then further delayed when illness led to him canceling his comeback ride at Volta a Valenciana, February.
Then, last month, coronavirus led to the cancelation or postponement of all racing through June 1, ending Dumoulin’s hopes of finally starting his season at Volta a Catalunya, March 23.
“It’s incredibly frustrating, and I’m really looking forward to the moment when I can pin a jersey number on again,” Dumoulin told NOS in a video interview. “However, that moment seems to be getting further away from me every day.”
The Tour de France is still scheduled to go ahead, June 27, though question marks hover over whether the race will take place as planned, or be rescheduled. Recent reports suggest ASO is already investigating a one-month postponement of the Tour, with a final verdict due by May 15. At present, Dumoulin is skeptical of seeing a Grand Depart any time in summer.
“No one is 100 percent sure what the virus will do towards the summer,” Dumoulin said. “I understand that they [ASO] are keeping the door ajar, but it doesn’t really change anything too much for me, as I’ll be keeping fit anyway.”
Dutchman Dumoulin has struck lucky by choosing to live in Belgium. While many pro cycling hotspots such as Girona and Andorra have banned training outside, Belgium is still allowing outdoor cycling.
“Things are going well according to circumstances,” Dumoulin said on the Live Slow Ride Fast podcast this weekend. “We can still cycle outside here. So frankly, I have to confess that I have been on the rollers very little. It is very nice outside again. So we are lucky in that respect.”
Many Belgian pros have been enjoying the luxury of riding outdoors, with Oliver Naesen revealing to VeloNews Monday that he has had to set his Strava account to ‘private’ to avoid criticism from those unaware of Belgian regulations. Unlike Naesen, Dumoulin has been keeping his training load light.
“I train a little less now. I try to keep myself fit, but as healthy as possible,” Dumoulin said on the podcast, hosted by former-teammate Laurens ten Dam. “It is so uncertain when the races start again that there is no point in making 30-hour training weeks. We have to wait for more news. Whether there will be racing and when.”
Dumoulin expressed uncertainty over the likelihood of seeing any positive news about racing in summer. If that is the case, the former Giro d’Italia champion’s competition layoff could extend to well over a year.
“To be honest, I do have a bit of a hard head,” Dumoulin told ten Dam. “It is probably slowly moving in the right direction. At some point, the measures will be relaxed again. Although that means somewhere that the virus will flare up again. But international events like the Tour, where riders, staff, and officials come from all over the world… people should be able to fly… But do governments want to run the risk of the virus spreading again? Nobody knows how things are going now.”