Could Tobias Foss be the next Tom Dumoulin? Jumbo-Visma is hoping so
Foss delivers Jumbo-Visma's first TT world title after years of investment in staff and material by the Dutch WorldTour powerhouse.
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Tobias Foss and his rainbow jersey-winning ride in the elite men’s individual time trial at the UCI Road World Championships was a surprise to everyone except staffers inside the Jumbo-Visma bus.
The Dutch squad continues to believe that Foss, a Tour de l’Avenir winner in 2019, can emerge as a grand tour threat. And Sunday’s win is confirmation of that belief.
Merijn Zeeman, Jumbo-Visma’s sport manager, told Wielerflits the 25-year-old reminds him of Tom Dumoulin, the recently retired Giro d’Italia winner.
“Foss climbs like Tom Dumoulin did in his good years, at his own pace,” Zeeman told Wielerflits. “He is just as much as a weapon as Tom was. He is that type of cyclist.”
“I am convinced he can grow into a grand tour rider,” Zeeman said. “That’s not to say he can win one, to be clear, but a very good one.”
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Foss joined Jumbo-Visma in 2020, and rode to ninth in the 2021 Giro d’Italia with a result that raised GC expectations for the 6-foot-3 Norwegian.
Things went off the rails a bit this year, and Foss struggled in the mountains at the 2022 Giro to finish a distant 54th overall.
Rather than bring him to the Vuelta a España to support and learn from Primož Roglič, as well as provide key firepower in the opening team time trial, team coaches realized Foss needed more time to re-set after a hard spring.
Instead, Foss returned slowly to competition, racing the Deutschland Tour and then providing backing to Wout van Aert at the Canadian races, especially in the GP Cycliste du Montréal.
That switch opened the door for Foss to deliver the surprise win Sunday at the individual time trial in Wollongong.
Zeeman said he hopes the victory can help elevate Foss to the next level in his career.
“It’s nice for young riders to see some real confirmation,” Zeeman said. “Cycling is sometimes a shit job, with falls, being sick, away from home a lot, watching your food, disappointments. This is the ultimate reward … that’s the fuel to keep going.
“I really hope this is the case with Tobias. We as Jumbo-Visma have also said countless times that we really believe in him — ‘You can do this, you have it,'” he said. “Together we experience those ups and downs with him. But I really hope that the penny has finally dropped for him, that he is fully committed to it.”
🇳🇴 Tobias Foss won 25% of the ITT that he contested in the 2 last seasons
He has the same number of ITT Top 10 than Wout van Aert in the 2 last seasons#wollongong22 #Foss #cycling pic.twitter.com/vAfIvctE00
— Fuoriclasse (@DataCycling) September 18, 2022
Despite Jumbo-Visma’s long pedigree in time trialing, it’s the first time the franchise won the elite men’s TT world title. And it came in the same year as the team’s first yellow jersey with Jonas Vingegaard in the Tour de France.
Foss will race at Il Lombardia and show off his new worlds TT stripes at Chrono des Nations in France.
Zeeman reveals the support behind Foss
Zeeman also painted a complete picture of how several key staffers inside Jumbo-Visma are designated to help riders like Foss.
Jumbo-Visma boasts one of the deepest back-room staffs in the WorldTour, and Zeeman said it’s that kind of support that makes a difference during the racing.
“Four people are constantly working with him to bring out his talent. That is the current story of top cycling,” Zeeman told Wielerflits. “When I started at Skil-Shimano in 2009, I was the only trainer out of 25 riders. Now we have three to five people on one rider. That is the difference.”
Foss works with a designated team trainer, a nutritionist as well as a mental coach. Zeeman provides a big-picture take, and the team also packs specific technicians and mechanic specialists for time trials.
Zeeman said it was thanks to Mathieu Heijboer, the team’s head of performance, and Jumbo-Visma racer Jos van Emden that the team pushed to improve its focus on time trials during the past half-decade or so.
“Jos and Mathieu really drove that. We were really nowhere at the time. We didn’t have the material, we didn’t have the mindset. During that period, we considered the day of the time trial as a recovery day,” Zeeman said. “Now we’re really looking forward to it. Jos and Mathieu really formed the basis of this world title for Tobias.
“There is not one individual who makes the difference,” Zeeman said. “We don’t say winning together for nothing. Richard Plugge and I bear ultimate responsibility, but everyone is allowed to contribute ideas about the entire process.”