What next for Tobias Foss after his underdog world championship time trial triumph?
The newly-rainbowed time trial champion is stuck between great grand tour ambitions and a Jumbo-Visma roster already capable of trampling down the three-week season.
“A grand tour is still my absolute dream, a dream I’m working toward. But at the moment it’s more likely that I can win short stage races with an individual time trial,” Foss told Discovery this week.
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It’s a task more difficult for Foss after his breakout 2021 Giro d’Italia was upturned by a corsa rosa gone very wrong this spring.
The burly Norwegian acknowledged a stunner rainbow jersey in Wollongong won’t be enough to book him a captaincy slot with his dominant Dutch crew any time soon, and could leave him big decisions for the future
“If I want to pursue a career as a GC leader in the grand tours, I have to realize that it will be difficult to go to the Tour or Giro and ride for my own chances,” he said. “There are so many other good leaders here.”
Stage racing reset
Foss scored a career-best ninth at last year’s Giro but saw his return to the race for pink derailed by a disaster spring slammed off the tracks by a heavy head injury and training fatigue.
The 25-year-old suffered as soon as the road tilted upward, ended three hours back in Verona, and he needed a long time to reboot and recover.
Foss could be at a grand tour crossroads in 2023.
Challenging against the new generation of explosive GC stars will see the diesel engine Scandinavian struggle as he looks to build his limited experience.
Jumbo-Visma manager Merijn Zeeman told VeloNews in a recent call that not even the 55km of time trialing on tap for this year’s Giro will be enough for his rainbow rouleur to see his dream grand tour result.
“The Giro, that’s definitely for TT specialists. Evenepoel, that’s pretty obvious, and Primož, Jonas. Tobias yes, but, he’s definitely not part of the favorites group yet. The TTs favor him but of course, he has to climb all those mountains as well,” Zeeman said.
“We need to speak with him about his ideas for next year, but we may need to re-think our approach. We saw Jonas had difficulties before the Giro.”
Stuck between ambition and loyalty
Foss indicated that he needed a hard stage-racing reset after trying too much too soon in 2022.
His final contracted season with Jumbo-Visma is likely to revolve around stage-racing and domestique roles rather than any lofty grand tour goals.
“We wanted a bit too much at once. We skipped a few steps,” Foss said. “I think it could be good to start from scratch again, do a few good stage races and build up some confidence again.”
Also read: Could Tobias Foss be the next Tom Dumoulin?
Jumbo-Visma is now intent on rebuilding its next budding grand tour star. Tom Dumoulin left the team this autumn, and Foss makes for a template replacement.
“Foss climbs like Tom Dumoulin did in his good years, at his own pace,” Zeeman told Wielerflits.
“He is just as much of a weapon as Tom was. He is that type of cyclist. I am convinced he can grow into a grand tour rider. That’s not to say he can win one, to be clear, but a very good one.”
Foss could face a tough choice when his contract expires in 2023.
Vingegaard, Roglič, and Kelderman are contracted through 2024 or beyond, and the Norwegian could struggle to see his own opportunity even in 2024.
A slot at a smaller squad could open avenues and alleyways that track toward grand tour greatness.
Yet if a rider wants to win grand tours, Jumbo-Visma is one of the best places to do it.
The team nurtured Vingegaard into the team’s first Tour de France winner and converted Roglič from a ski jumper to a three-time winner of the Vuelta a España. It similarly scouted Foss from the continental ranks and gave him the backing and belief to hit a Giro top-10 and win a world title.
“We as Jumbo-Visma have also said countless times that we really believe in [Tobias] — ‘You can do this, you have it,’” Zeeman said shortly after the Wollongong worlds.
“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.”
Foss is still only 25 and has a decade of racing in front of him. Team decisions in the mid-term could determine what Foss achieves in the long term.