Tom Dumoulin has said that he had been considering his future at Team Sunweb for some time before asking to be extricated from his contract earlier this summer. On Monday morning, Sunweb confirmed that Dumoulin will leave the team at the end of this season, and it has since been announced that he will join Jumbo-Visma on a three-year contract.
Dumoulin has endured a difficult 2019 season after he was forced out of the Giro d’Italia by a crash on stage 4 to Frascati. Although he returned to ride the Critérium du Dauphiné in June, he was subsequently ruled out of the Tour de France after undergoing surgery on his injured knee.
In the days leading up to the Tour, it was reported in the Dutch press that Dumoulin was seeking to leave Sunweb two years before the expiry of his contract at the end of 2021, and Jumbo-Visma was quickly identified as his most likely destination. Dumoulin’s agent began talks with Sunweb manager Iwan Spekenbrink the following week, and his departure from the team was formally confirmed on Monday.
"I had been walking around for a long time with the feeling that things were not going so well anymore," Dumoulin told NOS on Monday. "I couldn't get the best out of myself, and we couldn't make each other better."
Dumoulin is the third high-profile rider in recent years to leave Sunweb (formerly Giant-Shimano) before the expiry of his contract. Marcel Kittel left for QuickStep following the 2015 season, while Warren Barguil was allowed to leave for Arkéa-Samsic after the 2017 campaign.
"In a number of areas, we were so far apart that I thought: this is going to be difficult," Dumoulin said of his discussions with Sunweb.
Dumoulin has spent the entirety of his eight-year professional career on Spekenbrink's team, and the Maastricht native has developed into one of the pre-eminent Grand Tour riders in the world since his emergence as a threat over three weeks at the 2015 Vuelta a España.
After winning the Giro in 2017, Dumoulin returned to place second in the corsa rosa in 2018, before finishing as runner-up to Geraint Thomas on that year’s Tour de France. Dumoulin also led Sunweb to the team time trial world title in Bergen in 2017 before claiming the individual time trial crown three days later.
"My manager always said: 'there is no warmth without friction.' That has been the case for eight years. We have rubbed against one another, but also created a lot of warmth. We have shown super beautiful things," Dumoulin said. "Recently there was friction, but very little heat.
"The last months have not been fun. You can imagine that it has not always been nice conversations. But my manager still had a lot of wisdom: 'If you are both dissatisfied with the deal, then you have a good deal.' I’ll actually leave it at that."
Spekenbrink described the 28-year-old Dumoulin as an "icon" and expressed disappointment at his decision to leave the team. "You love them in your team. But athletes come and go, that's the reality," Spekenbrink told NOS.
Dumoulin underwent a second operation on his knee last month after scans revealed that he had suffered a torn tendon in his Giro crash. He admitted to NOS that he is unlikely to race again in Sunweb colours. He has already been ruled out of both the Vuelta and the Worlds.
"Now, four weeks after the operation, I can resume cycling a little," Dumoulin said. "The doctors are satisfied, but it will take a long time. I hope that the rehabilitation goes very well and that I can still do a race at the end of the season but that is not the expectation."