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The team confirmed Saturday that their Dutch leader had left its pre-season camp and would not be racing “for the time being.”
Only Friday, Jumbo-Visma had released a video of Dumoulin outlining his goals and ambitions for 2021, including acting as co-leader with Primož Roglič at the Tour de France. There were no indications of concerns when the team published the interview.
“I took the decision yesterday. And the team supports me in it, and it feels really good,” Dumoulin said in a team release. “It is really as if a backpack of a hundred kilos has slipped off my shoulders. I immediately woke up happy. It feels so good that I finally took the decision to take some time for myself. That says enough.”
“I have been feeling for quite a while that it is very difficult for me to know how to find my way as Tom Dumoulin the cyclist,” he continued. “With the pressure that comes with it, with the expectations of different parties. I just want to do very well for very many people. I want the team to be happy with me. I want the sponsors to be happy. I want my wife and my family to be happy. And so I want to do well for everyone, but because of that I have forgotten myself a bit in the past year. What do I want? Do I still want to be a rider. And how?”
Jumb0-Visma had released a number of video interviews from its Spanish camp Friday, including a lengthy conversation with Dumoulin in which he had outlined a season set to include riding in support of Wout van Aert at the classics and acting as “shadow leader” for Roglič at the Tour. His provisional program had his racing debut set for Strade Bianche in March.
The 30-year-old had spoken of his optimism for the season after two years of struggling with injuries and illness.
“I’m happy that I have races back in the legs again and that I’ve got back the feeling of racing,” he said in the interview released Friday. “I was still seventh in the Tour de France [last year], but it wasn’t what I was hoping for, and it’s not what I’m aiming at this year. It was an unlucky year, and I came from a very disappointing 2019 with injury. It was a demanding year, 2020, and I’m hoping 2021 is about performing and looking ahead rather than looking back and worrying about injuries and whatever.”
The news makes for the latest chapter in a turbulent career for Dumoulin.
During his time with Team Sunweb, the Dutchman took the pink jersey at the 2017 Giro d’Italia before placing second at both the Giro and Tour in 2018. However, Dumoulin then closed his contract with the team two years early as relationships broke down, and in 2020 joined Jumbo-Visma.
Dumoulin has previously spoken of his emotional struggles as he battled to come back from the knee injury that forced him to withdraw from the 2019 Giro in what was an unhappy final season at Sunweb.
“In spite of that good season [in 2018], some questions remained unanswered and gnawed in 2018,” Dumoulin had said in December 2019. “Am I going to do this for another ten years? Will this life make me happy? What goals do I want to set myself as a cyclist? How do I want to reach them?”