With last week's announcement that Tom Dumoulin would be taking an indefinite leave from racing, the Jumbo-Visma management face the delicate task of deciding on their Tour de France strategy and selection.
While the Dutch team have publicly and privately backed Dumoulin as he takes stock ahead of his next move, the reality is that they cannot wait until late July to see if the former Giro d'Italia winner will be eligible for the Tour.
The team must begin the process of finding a replacement, even if it's provisional, especially after initially announcing that Dumoulin would be given co-leadership alongside Primož Roglič.
Cyclingnews takes a look at the possible replacements from within their squad.
Tour de France experience: A veteran of four Tours, he’s helped teammates finish on the podium in both 2019 and 2020.
Possible role: Bennett came in for the injured Laurens De Plus last year and performed admirably in the mountains as Roglic secured second overall. The Kiwi, like last year, was hoping to target the Giro d’Italia and the Olympics this time around and this might feel like Groundhog Day for the 30-year-old if he’s asked to once more sacrifice his own ambitions for the greater good.
The Olympic Games might not happen anyway, which would somewhat soften the blow if Bennett is forced to change races, but the team management must deliberate the ramifications of dragging away a rider who has been patient for so long.
Bennett is the most experienced rider the team have if they’re looking to find a rider capable of coming close Dumoulin’s staying power in the mountains. However shifting Bennett to the Tour would also dilute their Giro ambitions.
Tour de France experience: Three Giro and a Vuelta but no Tour experience.
Possible role: He’s the new kid on the block, having followed Dumoulin over to Jumbo-Visma 12 months after his teammate made the crossing.
The former Tour de l’Ain winner is arguably an easier fit than Bennett given that he wasn’t originally down to ride either the Giro or the Tour, and was instead targeting a super domestique spot at the Vuelta, but he’s not as consistent or as experienced.
Oomen can climb – he finished in the top-10 at the 2018 Giro – and despite injuries in recent years he has unquestionable talent. He could soak up plenty of the domestique duties for Jumbo-Visma at the Tour, even if he isn’t in the same caliber of Dumoulin when it comes to leadership or experience, but no matter who is finally selected, the final team will be entirely dialed around Roglič.
Tour de France experience: A highly creditable 37th in 2018.
Possible role: After a memorable Tour display in 2018, and then a fine stage win in the Tour de Suisse a season later, Tolhoek’s progression plateaued in 2021. Like Oomen, he wasn’t scheduled for the Tour or Giro, but he has experience from 2018 and he’s a solid mountain domestique.
He has perhaps dropped down the pecking order in recent times due to some of the team’s new arrivals, but if Jumbo-Visma want a dependable rider to take Dumoulin’s place then Tolhoek is a fine understudy.
Tour de France experience: Just one Vuelta in his locker but he’s made huge progress since joining the WorldTour in 2019.
Possible role: Vingegaard's presence on this list might come as a surprise but he’s a name that has come up internally as the team look to fill their eighth and final spot for the Tour.
In a very real sense, his presence appears plausible. Jumbo-Visma don’t have a like-for-like as they look for a Dumoulin alternative so the theory is that the team will look to strengthen in other areas, free up some responsibility elsewhere, and then expect more from the core group of climbers who would be fresher due to the presence of a rider who may not be as dependable as a Robert Gesink or Sepp Kuss but has certainly improved in the last 12 months.
Tour de France experience: Five Grand Tour starts but no Tour experience.
Possible role: Won a stage in the Critérium du Dauphiné from the break in 2017 and has since settled into the role of a domestique in Grand Tours who can have a rare chance for himself in some of the smaller races.
Bouwman has been slated for the Giro as one of Bennett's mountain men and taking him away from the Kiwi would seriously dent Bennett’s GC protection. Bouwman is a consistent all-rounder but he’s not the favourite to make Tour start at this point.
Tour de France experience: Four Grand Tour stars but zero Tour de France experience.
Possible role: Another former Sunweb rider, Hofstede came through the ranks at the Rabobank development team and returned to his roots at the start of 2019. He’s a versatile rider but wasn’t scheduled to ride any of the Grand Tours when Jumbo-Visma announced their initial plans earlier this month.
That may change given the recent news, and even if a Tour spot doesn’t open up there will certainly be chances for the 26-year-old to slot in at some point during the season.
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