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Dylan Groenewegen believes he is back at his best ahead of the 2022 season after a tumultuous two years.
The Dutchman was served a nine-month ban for his part in causing Fabio Jakobsen’s horrific crash at the 2020 Tour of Poland — after just 11 days of racing after the months-long break due to the pandemic. During his suspension, Groenewegen was unable to train properly for his return as his attention was occupied by concerns about the health of his girlfriend and his son, who was born a month premature.
With a healthy family and a new drive for 2022 following a switch from Jumbo-Visma to BikeExchange-Jayco over the winter, Groenewegen has been able to enjoy a straightforward winter and he has his confidence back.
“Last year was really hard after all that happened also with my kid. I had a difficult start in the Giro, I couldn’t train a lot then, so then your confidence is not really high in the races,” Groenewegen told VeloNews in a video call. “For a sprinter, it’s really important that you have confidence and motivation. Last season it was really hard.
“Now with a new team, the motivation is really high to take the victories. Thinking how I train now, I’m really the old Dylan from before the last two years.”
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The lure of a Tour de France return was something that enticed Groenewegen into his surprise late move to BikeExchange. He last rode the race in 2019, where he won the stage 7 sprint into Chalon-sur-Saône and helped Jumbo-Visma to a TTT win.
Starting with the Saudi Tour next month, Groenewegen has a busy period of racing with visits to Paris-Nice and Gent-Wevelgem over the first half of the season. It’s all in an effort to get him sprint-ready for the Tour de France in July.
“I missed that race,” Groenewegen said of the Tour de France. “Last year, I did 13 days at the Giro but I was not in the best condition but yeah, I like to do the Tour de France. When I was young, I look at the Tour de France and I was thinking that’s the most beautiful race. For me, the Tour de France is something special. I’m really happy that I’m going back to the Tour de France.”
Since his pro debut in 2016, Groenewegen has won four stages at the Tour de France. As with many riders, racing the French grand tour is a childhood ambition realized.
“I think for everyone it’s the feeling when you were young and you look at the television and, of course, you saw [Mark] Cavendish sprinting to victory and you’re thinking yeah, I also want that victory. Then when you get the victory it’s awesome and it’s a dream come true.”
This year’s edition of the Tour de France sees sprint opportunities well spread out over the three weeks. While the route may not be littered with flat days, there’s enough for Groenewegen to get his teeth stuck in.
“It’s really hard for the sprinters but there are so some stages that are really flat, and I hope to make the bunch sprint. I think there are four or five chances to sprint, and I think that’s enough for a sprinter,” he said.
A Giant decision
Given that he was tied to Jumbo-Visma until 2023, it caught almost everybody by surprise when it was announced that Groenewegen would be in the colors of BikeExchange-Jayco for 2022.
Indeed, Groenewegen wasn’t looking to break his contract with Jumbo-Visma but a conversation with BikeExchange’s, soon to be announced, bike sponsor Giant sparked the beginnings of the move.
“Giant came and talked to me to make a new sprint train in the BikeExchange team,” Groenewegen explained to VeloNews. “That was for me really nice, but I was also contracted with Jumbo for two more years. I talked a lot with team Jumbo-Visma, Richard Plugge [team manager], and Merijn Zeeman [sport director].
“We spoke really clearly to each other and said this is a new chance for me and also a new start after the last two seasons and they said ‘if it’s feeling good for you, then we let you free and go for your new team.’”
With Jumbo-Visma increasingly focused on grand tours — with the likes of Primož Roglič and Tom Dumoulin, and the classics with Wout van Aert — Groenewegen was finding himself squeezed out in the team hierarchy. There were no hard feelings on either side, but the Dutchman saw his opportunity to become an integral part of a team roster rather than an added extra.
“This is a really new motivation and new step. Also, the team Jumbo Visma was a really a team for the general classifications,” he said. “It was no longer a sprint team. I had some really nice years there. I was there for six years, so that’s a really long time. After that, it was time for me for making a new step and yeah, they still make a new step possible for me and it, feels really good.
“Jumbo Visma is one of the best teams in the world but for a sprinter, it’s really hard to ride in the team and to ride the program that I want, and that includes the Tour de France. I think that’s one of the biggest races in the world. And yeah, I want to go back to the Tour de France, and now it’s possible to go back with Team BikeExchange.”