Former teammate Marcel Kittel has posted a compassionate message of support for Tom Dumoulin after the Dutchman made the call to take time away from cycling with immediate effect. Kittel, who retired from professional cycling mid-way through the 2019 season, rode with Dumoulin for four seasons between 2012 and 2015 with Dumoulin initially forming part of Kittel’s incredibly successful leadout train before the Dutchman began to excel in time trials and then stage races.
Kittel, like Dumoulin, also left Giant Alpecin earlier than expected but the German called time on his career after stating that he had lost all motivation after a difficult spell at Katusha.
Dumoulin stopped short of announcing his retirement on Saturday but his future as a professional bike rider has been put on pause while he works through his personal needs and decides where his future points to next.
The news of his sudden unpaid leave of absence came as a shock, not least because just 24 hours earlier Jumbo-Visma had announced that the 30-year-old would be handed leadership roles in both the cobbled Classics and the Tour de France, where Dumoulin had finished seventh in 2020.
Kittel, who remains a keen fan of the sport and has done media work since retiring, offered his full support for Dumoulin and empathized with the Dutchman’s situation and decision to take time away.
“I've always admired @t.dumoulin for his strength. On the bike when [we] were teammates and won Tour de France stages together. And off the bike for his clear opinion and honest critic,” the German wrote on Instagram.
“Of course it's sad to see him taking a timeout from cycling now, but he also stays true to himself to take the time he needs and figure out what and who he is, and what he wants. I know from personal experience how it feels and how difficult it can be when you're doubting what you do and you want to look beyond your current life and identity. Only time will give you the answers and I hope for Tom that he'll find them soon.”
“Until then I wish him the same strength that he's got on the bike also for this part of his career and everyone else who is in the same situation and trying to learn more about his or her own identity. I know that it's a big journey with an uncertain destination but also a very important life lesson once you find that inner compass again, recalibrate and head into your future direction.”
Dumoulin and Jumbo-Visma have not put a timeframe on the rider’s leave of absence at this point, however, the rider had revealed that he came close to stopping his racing career after last year's Tour de France, telling Wielerflits that retirement had crossed his mind previously.
"I have had a terrible time after my knee injury. Then on top of that came the intestinal complaints in the spring and then corona. I can say that I was closer to stopping than to continue,” he told the publication.
The news of his departure from the Jumbo-Visma team camp in Spain leaves the Dutch squad facing a number of questions, not least what happens with their Tour roster given that just 24-hours ago Dumoulin was given a co-leadership role within the squad.
That said, the team's first priority, understandably, is now based around Dumoulin's well-being as a person rather than his athletic priorities but this will no doubt come as a shock to the rest of his teammates.
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