FLORENCE, Italy (VN) — Tom Dumoulin ended his chapter at Team Sunweb – “which has too many rules” – with a beach race in Scheveningen, the Netherlands. He completed his first race since June, and possibly the last before joining Jumbo-Visma.
The Dutch winner of the 2017 Giro d’Italia and 2017 time trial World Champion raced on Sunday in his red and black Sunweb kit. He placed sixth in the mountain bike race, a promising result given he had spent much of summer dealing with knee problems resulting from his Giro d’Italia crash in May.
He had not raced since the Critérium du Dauphiné, pulling out on June 15, 150 days ago. Problems grew between him and his team, which he eventually quit two years early. He later joined cycling’s new superteam, Team Jumbo-Visma with Primoz Roglic, Steven Kruijswijk, and Wout Van Aert.
Dumoulin spent the summer dealing with knee issues. He crashed in the Giro d’Italia’s stage four. He tried to continue in stage five, but quit before kilometer zero. The incident required two surgeries on his left knee.
At the same time, stories emerged of a rift between him and Sunweb’s management. Reportedly, he was unhappy with materials at the start of 2018 when he was time trial world champion and he was unhappy with the lack of new classification support riders for him after winning the 2017 Giro d’Italia, and placing second in the 2018 Giro d’Italia and Tour de France.
Trek-Segafredo Sports Director Steven De Jongh, who said that even his team wanted to sign the time trial and classification star, understood the problems.
“At Team Sunweb they have so many rules and protocols,” De Jongh told Wielerflits this weekend. “Tom had outgrown that. For champions like him you have to make exceptions.
“His name was also mentioned with us, because he really wanted to leave. He was dead and unhappy. If you both feel that you are on a dead end, you have to look for a solution.”
“That Dumoulin wanted to leave was no surprise to me,” Team Sunweb’s former sprinter Marcel Kittel told In de Leiderstrui last month. “[Sunweb boss] Spekenbrink forges a team for young riders and they are guided very well. But if riders become leaders then you have to give them some freedom. They apparently find that very difficult. It started with me, but you saw the same problem arise with Warren Barguil and John Degenkolb. Then it was Tom.”
Spekenbrink explained in August when the two parties annulled the contract that “Tom opened up to thoughts that a new environment could be refreshing and we decided to respect his request and cooperate to make a move possible.”
The mountain bike race this weekend ends an eight-year run with the Dutch team that includes American Chad Haga. In that time, Dumoulin nearly won a Vuelta a España, won stages in the Giro, Tour, and Vuelta, took the gold medal at the 2018 World Championship time trial, and had grand tour success.
Soon he will change into Jumbo-Visma’s yellow and black colors. The team also includes American Sepp Kuss, who won a stage in the Vuelta a España while helping Primoz Roglic win the overall. The team is meeting this month for the first time, but under cycling governing body’s rules, riders can only wear their new kit starting on January 1.
Rival teams are already taking note of the emergence of a new force. Jonathan Castroviejo with Team Ineos, with the sport’s richest and strongest team welcomed the “competitiveness.”
“At the Tour, you could see that Jumbo-Visma were very close to us,” he told ES Ciclismo. “They have a very powerful team and have just completed a very good season. It is good for cycling that there is competitiveness.”