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Tom Dumoulin is one of only a handful of grand tour winners active in the peloton.
Yet after his sudden departure and subsequent return to racing in 2021, the top Dutch rider is an unknown factor going into the Tour de France and the 2022 season.
Will he be a factor once again in grand tour racing? He’s certainly hoping so.
“I want to return to racing and win,” Dumoulin said in an interview with the Dutch magazine Helden. “We’ll decide on my calendar in December, but I do not count out grand tours. I know it will be difficult but I also know I can be there.”
Dumoulin was one of the rising stars of the “Class of 1990,” and won the 2017 Giro d’Italia in dramatic fashion. Second in the 2018 Tour de France only confirmed his grand tour credentials.
Injuries, pressure, and frustrations took their toll. By the start of 2021, Dumoulin admitted he was burned out.
“In January, I couldn’t ride more than two hours on the bike,” he said. “I felt bad for the rest of the day and I had to be on the sofa for hours on end. My body was blocked and I had lost all joy at riding the bike. I started to hate it.”
Dumoulin made the abrupt decision to stop racing, and pulled himself onto the sidelines for the first half of the season. He returned in June to win the national time trial championship and then surprised many by taking silver in the Tokyo Olympic time trial.
💬 “My season is finished. That’s a big deception, because I just got really good at it again.” – @tom_dumoulin
Get well soon, Tom! 🍀
— Team Jumbo-Visma cycling (@JumboVismaRoad) September 9, 2021
An injury kept him out of the road worlds in September, but Dumoulin says he’s back on track.
But will he return to become a GC captain for grand tours, or evolve into a rider who can win time trials and then work for other leaders in the major races?
Dumoulin, who turned 31 this week, said he’s not done yet.
“I became a cyclist to become the best I can be,” he said in the interview. “I am not happy when I have to work at the front for others, but I can be a big help to my team when I am at 95 percent. But the fact that I can perform well at 95 percent doesn’t correspond to my ambitions. I want to be 100 percent.”
This season could prove decisive for Dumoulin. He’s in the final year of his contract with Jumbo-Visma, which stuck by him during his early-season crisis in 2021.
The team is already crowded at the top, however, with Primož Roglič and the emergence of Jonas Vingegaard looking for leadership. Riders such as Sepp Kuss and Tobias Foss are also elbowing toward the top of the hierarchy.
Dumoulin became the first Dutch winner of a grand tour since 1980 when he won the Giro in 2017. Dutch fans and media are hoping they don’t have to wait that long for another one.