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Groenewegen: Next year I can return to the level where I belong

Dutch Dylan Groenewegen of Team JumboVisma pictured before the start of the men elite race of the ParisRoubaix cycling event 2577km from Compiegne to Roubaix France on Sunday 03 October 2021 BELGA PHOTO DAVID STOCKMAN Photo by DAVID STOCKMANBELGA MAGAFP via Getty Images
Dylan Groenewegen (Jumbo-Visma) at Paris-Roubaix (Image credit: David Stockman/AFP/Getty Images)

Dylan Groenewegen ended his season on a relative high note on Sunday, taking third place in the Ronde van Drenthe behind breakaway winner Rune Herregodts (Sport Vlaanderen-Baloise) and Andrea Pasqualon (Intermarché-Wanty-Gobert), who won the sprint for second.

The Dutchman, who rode as part of the Jumbo-Visma Development Team – in accordance with the UCI rule introduced last year, has endured a challenging year in 2021.

Following his ban from the sport for causing the crash that threatened Fabio Jakobsen's life last year, he only started his season in May and has taken three wins in a year where he has mostly raced at a level below the WorldTour.

On a personal level, he revealed at the start of the year that he and his son – Mayson, born six weeks prematurely in January – had received death threats for his role in the Jakobsen crash, while the legal case resulting from the crash is also still hanging over him.

Those wins came at the Tour de Wallonie and Post Danmark Rundt, but despite not taking victory in Hoogeveen, Groenewegen was positive about the end of his season.

"It's really good for me that I can ride finals," he told WielerFlits after the race. "I noticed all season that I haven't been at my absolute top level. At times it was good but sometimes not at all. I know why. We went through a lot at the beginning of the year after the birth of my son, so I haven't been able to train much.

"Without having trained that much, I started the season again," he added. "Besides, having to go to the hospital so often doesn't help. The condition was good, but I missed that final kick for the sprints.

"I know what I have to work on. It's important for this winter that I can sharpen my basic condition again. Then next year I can really return to the level where I belong."

Groenewegen was part of several chase groups during the 188.5-kilometre race, which saw Herregodts survive from the early break to hold off those chasing behind to win by 13 seconds. He ended up grabbing third place from what was only a group of 34 at the finish.

Having raced alongside a largely unfamiliar group of young riders, Groenewegen only had praise for them after the race.

"It was a nice selective race. A lot of jumps, groups that were constantly breaking away and falling back. A gruelling race," he said.

"Intermarché-Wanty-Gobert had a very strong team and they showed the initiative. But we were always good, even though we lost two guys quite quickly. The four of us did pretty well.

"There were about 25 men in [my chase group] I think. Rick Pluimers was good in a group of six before that. We always had someone in the race to ride for a good result but for the victory we gave away too much space to the early breakaway riders. That's a pity but it is what it is."