Road

Dumoulin ‘couldn’t have wished for a better test’ after 420 days on sidelines

Jumbo-Visma struck early blow in pre-Tour match-up with Team Ineos at Tour de L'Ain on Friday.

It may have been 420 days since Tom Dumoulin raced his bike, but it didn’t look that way at the opening stage of Tour de L’Ain on Friday.

Jumbo-Visma struck first in their opening pre-Tour de France showdown with Team Ineos at Tour de l’Ain Friday, with Primož Roglič attacking over a short climb in the final five kilometers, before being led out for a reduced bunch sprint by new teammate Dumoulin. The Vuelta a España champion was narrowly denied the victory by a powerful late surge by Deceuninck-Quick-Step rookie Andrea Bagioli.

Dumoulin may have finished off the podium in fourth place, but his performance drew the spotlight after 14 months without racing.

“The final was hectic, but that’s just like skiing, you don’t forget it,” he said. “I couldn’t have wished for a better test.”

Friday’s race marked the Dutchman’s long-awaited debut in the yellow kit of Jumbo-Visma, finally returning to racing after a long recovery from knee injuries sustained at last year’s Giro d’Italia, subsequent illnesses, and then the coronavirus racing stop.

Dumoulin now has just over three weeks until he forms one of a trio of leaders for his Dutch team at this summer’s Tour de France alongside Roglic and Steven Kruijswijk,

“The top form doesn’t have to be there yet,” Dumoulin told De Telegraaf. “The training sessions went very well, but driving a race is very different. Especially after 420 days. It takes some getting used to.

“The Tour de France is still three weeks away,” he said. “First, I have to get the rhythm and make it natural with the others, so that we come out of this race with a good feeling.”

Dumoulin, Roglic and Kruijswijk will be squaring-off against Ineos’ triumvirate of Egan Bernal, Chris Froome and Geraint Thomas at the Tour later this month. The British team’s leaders are also racing Tour de l’Ain this week, though they remained anonymous in the frenetic final phase of racing into Ceyzeriat Friday.

Bernal and Thomas finished in the top-30 in the bunch behind the sprint, while the question marks around Froome’s form continue, with the four-time Tour winner coming home nearly two minutes back having been caught off-guard with a late bike change.

Tour de l’Ain continues Saturday on a lumpy stage through the foothills of the Jura mountains.