In an interview with De Telegraaf last month, the 2017 Giro d'Italia winner said he's "full-on for the overall" when the Tour starts on July 7 in Noirmoutier-en-l'Ile. His team, on the other hand, made it quite clear in their roster announcement that this year's Tour was more of a fact-finding mission in service of future full-on Dumoulin GC efforts.
The difference may reflect the gap between youthful enthusiasm and managerial pragmatism, or it may simply be the case of team directors playing down expectations for their dark-horse contender. It's also possible that both are true: while Dumoulin pours himself full bore into going for a top overall result, the team will be accumulating data points and formulating future plans.
Either way, the riders aren't going to be suffering any less because their three weeks in France are a sweaty learning experience for the team. They're going to suffer, so they're going to try to win. Recognising this, Team Sunweb have put together a roster to support Dumoulin's general classification ambitions – now and in the future – while setting themselves up for daily opportunities.
Dumoulin will be joined in France by Søren Kragh Andersen, Nikias Arndt, Simon Geschke, Chad Haga, Michael Matthews and Edward Theuns. Wilco Kelderman was scratched at the last minute because of a recurring shoulder injury and has been replaced by Laurens ten Dam.
Matthews won the green jersey last year after perennial winner Peter Sagan (Bora-Hansgrohe) was disqualified, but, assuming Sagan makes it to the finish in Paris this time, that jersey might be out of reach for Matthews this year, so the team is built mostly around Dumoulin.
Ten Dam, Haga, Kragh Andersen and Geschke can support Dumoulin on the medium-to-difficult stages, while Theuns and Arndt can protect him on the flat days while also helping Matthews fight for green. The team tipped their sprinter as being in contention for stage wins on days with "uphill sprints", signalling that they may not have confidence in him for the pure bunch kicks.
Team Sunweb is bringing a strong roster for the stage 3 team time trial, but they'll also have firepower to win from breakaways should the opportunities arise. Geschke and Kragh Andersen have found success this way, while Theuns is a decent sprinter in his own right.
The team's only shortfall could come in the high mountains, where Dumoulin could easily find himself isolated by Team Sky's annual GC juggernaut and Movistar's new three-pronged attack.
Team Sunweb's Tour de France roster
Name: Tom Dumoulin
Experience: Nine Grand Tours, including the Tour de France in 2013, 2014, 2015 and 2016. Dumoulin is the reigning time trial world champion, and he won the 2017 Giro d'Italia. He was runner-up to Chris Froome at the Giro in May.
The young Dutchman has the requisite skillset to win the Tour de France one day, as he proved at the Giro in 2017. There are just a few obstacles in his way, however, in the forms of Team Sky, Movistar, et al. Dumoulin has never gone up against such an all-star cast as he'll face this July, but he's shown in the past that he can conquer steep learning curves.
Name: Søren Kragh Andersen
Experience: One previous Grand Tour at last year's Vuelta a Espana.
With just one Grand Tour start under his belt, the 23-year-old is getting tossed into the deep end at this year's Tour. The team says it's going into this year's race with more than one eye towards the future, and it obviously sees Kragh Andersen as part of that long-term plan. Despite his relative youth, Kragh Andersen has already scored three pro wins, his first during stage 4 of the Tour de Fjords in 2015, followed by stage wins at the Tour of Oman last year and the Tour de Suisse this year. Kragh Andersen is a strong all-rounder with a deadly finishing kick on the punchy uphill finishes, and he's also got Paris-Roubaix experience, which will be useful on the cobbles on stage 9.
Name: Nikias Arndt
Experience: Six previous Grand Tours, including the 2017 Tour de France.
Arndt is a fast finisher who can provide a quality lead-out for Matthews, as well as taking his own chances on days when Matthews might miss out on the finale. He'll be invaluable to Dumoulin during the stage on the cobbles and throughout the tense first week of racing, especially during the stage 3 team time trial. Arndt was part of Team Sunweb's runner-up TTT formation at the Tour de Suisse, and he finished ninth in the race's individual time trial.
Name: Laurens ten Dam
Position: Climbing domestique
Experience: Sixteen Grand Tours, including nine starts at the Tour de France. His best Tour finish was ninth overall in 2015. He was 67th last year.
Ten Dam got a last-minute call-up after Wilco Kelderman re-injured his shoulder and was not able to start. Ten Dam raced the Giro d'Italia in May, finishing 32nd, while helping Dumoulin take second. He abandoned the Critérium du Dauphiné on stage 1, and most recently finished 58th in the Dutch road race championships. Ten Dam has put in a long season already at 52 race days, but he's got the veteran seasoning to take on a second Grand Tour and assist Dumoulin as his fellow Dutchman makes a run for yellow.
Name: Simon Geschke
Experience: Ten Grand Tours, including the Tour de France in 2009, 2013, 2015, 2016 and 2017. He won stage 17 of the Tour de France in 2015.
Geschke will be one of the experienced hands Dumoulin will be able to rely on during the first week and into the medium mountain stages. The burly German showed his mettle in 2015 when he took a solo mountain stage win to Pra Loup. That experience and tenacity will come in handy when Team Sky and Movistar start turning the screw in the mountains. Geschke also has enough Classics experience to help guide Dumoulin past the cobbles.
Name: Chad Haga
Experience: This will be Haga's first Tour de France and eighth Grand Tour.
Haga is another of the Sunweb riders coming off the Giro d'Italia. He raced both the Giro and the Vuelta in 2016 and 2017, but he's never done back-to-back Grand Tours, so his debut Grande Boucle will take on an added challenge. Haga is a top-notch time triallist who will play a big part in the stage 3 team time trial, and from there he'll hope to continue in the stalwart domestique role that has earned the American a comfortable spot within the German team.
Name: Michael Matthews
Experience: Seven previous Grand Tours for Matthews, including the Tour de France in 2015, 2016 and 2017. Matthews won two stages at the Tour de France last year and one in 2016.
Wins have been hard to come by for Matthews this year. Since his two stage wins at last year's Tour he's only added one stage win at the Tour de Romandie, and that was on the 4.2km prologue, not a bunch sprint. Matthews appeared to be back on form with multiple top 10s at the Tour de Suisse, but he's yet to crack the line first in a sprint this year. As such, the team seem to be hedging their bets with the Australian, saying he'll contest the uphill sprints rather than the full bunch gallops. Nevertheless, sprinting can also be a lucky man's game, so Matthews is always in with a shot. Matthews will certainly be making a run at defending the green jersey he won last year.
Name: Edward Theuns
Experience: Theuns raced the Tour de France in 2016 and the Vuelta last year.
Theuns' role on the team is pretty clear-cut: take care of Dumoulin throughout the race, especially on the flat stages. He may be called upon to use his quick finish to help Matthews, but it's more likely that he'll be the big diesel engine supplying Sunweb's power on the flats and in the team time trial. He'll also be Dumoulin's best friend on the stage 9 cobbles.
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The 2018 Tour de France starts on July 7 and concludes on July 29 in Paris. Cyclingnews will have complete live coverage from the race, as well as race analysis, blogs, video highlights and podcasts from the team on the ground.
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