Responding to recent reporting that Tom Dumoulin is under consideration for the Olympic Games, the rider’s former Jumbo-Visma team has revealed that there are still no clear signs that the Dutchman could return to the sport.
Team sports director Merijn Zeeman spoke to Cycling Weekly on the matter, confirming that things were still up in the air. “What we discussed with Tom when he left the training camp and started a break from pro cycling was that he would take his time and that he would inform us if he knew what he wants as regards his future as a pro cyclist. And that moment hasn’t come yet,” Zeeman said.
“So he is still…let’s say in retirement, thinking about that. And we are waiting for the moment that he will inform us [what he will do – ed.].
“That is what we discussed together and agreed together – you take your time, you reflect on everything and when the moment is there when you have made a decision what you want as a pro cyclist, then you come to us. Until that moment we will leave you and give you the time and the rest to reflect. That is still the same situation. That is really the situation as it is right now.”
Dumoulin has been one of the best riders in pro cycling in recent years, winning the 2017 Giro d’Italia and finishing second in both the 2018 Giro and the Tour de France. He suffered a bad crash in the 2019 Giro d’Italia and was forced to miss that year’s Tour, but returned last season as part of the Jumbo-Visma squad. Despite supporting team-mate Primož Roglič in his bid to win the 2020 Tour, Dumoulin still finished an impressive seventh overall himself.
However the 2017 world time trial champion stunned the sport this year when he made the decision to take an indefinite break. In a team announcement on January 23, he spoke of heavy stress and said that he was confused as to what he wanted from life.
“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 said then. “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. I want to do well for everyone, but because of that I have forgotten myself in the past year. What do I want? Do I still want to be a rider? And how?”
He said then that taking the decision to take a hiatus felt “really good. 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.”
Months later, speculation has mounted about a possible return. There have been reports that Dumoulin has been spotted training on his bike; he also attended the Amstel Gold Race as a spectator, showing he retains an interest in the sport. The speculation then intensified on April 20 when Wielerflits reported that Dumoulin was one of seven road riders who are on the Dutch federation’s vaccination list for Tokyo 2021.
The Dutch website said that those would be given Pfizer vaccines starting from last Monday, specifically to enable the athletes in question to compete in the Games. It also reported that national coach Koos Moerenhout had confirmed that he was in recent contact with Dumoulin. Moerenhout told Wielerflits that if Dumoulin does decide to return to the sport, that he still has a chance to be one of the five riders to compete in the road race and one of the two who will do the time trial.
For now, Jumbo-Visma appears to have ruled Dumoulin out for the Tour de France, announcing last Monday that Jonas Vingegaard would fill the final spot in the line-up. Team selections are however provisional, and it is conceivable that things could change again before the start on June 26.
Zeeman told Cycling Weekly that if Dumoulin does return, his career could ultimately benefit if the time away enabled him to come back mentally refreshed and fully committed to the sport. However he said that it isn’t clear how long it would take Dumoulin to catch up on his lost fitness.
“That is something I don’t know, because I don’t know if he’s on the bike, how much he is training, if he has been completely at rest. I really don’t know,” Zeeman said. “It is really difficult to predict.”
He said the most important thing is that Dumoulin makes a clear decision when he is ready. “Of course, Tom is a fantastic talent and a fantastic athlete,” he said. “But still, what is most important is that he is happy in what he is doing. We are together in thinking that.”