Before the coronavirus pandemic, Tom Dumoulin had not raced for almost a year. Now, with a solid if not remarkable campaign behind him, the Jumbo-Visma rider believes he is only one step from being back to the very top of professional cycling.
Dumoulin was knocked out of action in the 2019 Critérium du Dauphiné - the knee injury that put him out of the Giro d'Italia and a falling out with the Sunweb kept him out of competition the rest of that season. Then, after signing for Jumbo-Visma, his planned build-up for 2020 was derailed first by an intestinal infection and then by the COVID-19 pandemic.
In interview with De Limburger, Dumoulin says he went from "total nothing to total chaos" once his season finally started. The 30-year-old returned in August at Tour de l'Ain, where he landed just outside the top 10, and went on to the Dauphiné, coming seventh overall before supporting Primož Roglič in the Tour de France.
He was both encouraged with his Tour performance and admitted that he lacked the last little bit to compete at the level that saw him win the 2017 Giro d'Italia and finish second in both the Tour and Giro in 2018.
"It was physically more difficult than hoped for. In top sport it is all about the last per cent," Dumoulin said. "But that one per cent is more difficult than the first 90... However, I have a lot of confidence that I can still get that one per cent back."
Going from 14 months away from competition to such a heavy schedule - 40 days of racing over 82 days - pushed Dumoulin to the limit, and he was forced out of the Vuelta a España after stage 7 due to fatigue. In retrospect, racing La Flèche Wallonne and Liège-Bastogne-Liège straight after the Tour and World Championships may have been too much, he said.
"I was completely exhausted in the Vuelta. Actually the plan was that I wouldn't do the Classics, but it went well and I seemed to improve. There was also a rider shortage.
"Maybe I shouldn't have done it after all, although I also asked for those Classics myself. I really wanted to show myself again," he said.
On the bright side, Dumoulin points to his second place in the final time trial at the Tour de France and seventh overall as an indication that he can get back to his best.
"If you add one per cent to this year's Tour, I come close to it," Dumoulin said. "I base that on the feeling that I really didn't show the best side of myself in the last Tour and even finished seventh with that side. That gives me confidence that I will soon be able to participate fully again."
Thank you for reading 5 articles in the past 30 days*
Join now for unlimited access
Enjoy your first month for just £1 / $1 / €1
*Read any 5 articles for free in each 30-day period, this automatically resets
After your trial you will be billed £4.99 $7.99 €5.99 per month, cancel anytime. Or sign up for one year for just £49 $79 €59
Join now for unlimited access
Try your first month for just £1 / $1 / €1
Get The Leadout Newsletter
The latest race content, interviews, features, reviews and expert buying guides, direct to your inbox!
Cyclingnews is the world's leader in English-language coverage of professional cycling. Started in 1995 by University of Newcastle professor Bill Mitchell, the site was one of the first to provide breaking news and results over the internet in English. The site was purchased by Knapp Communications in 1999, and owner Gerard Knapp built it into the definitive voice of pro cycling. Since then, major publishing house Future PLC has owned the site and expanded it to include top features, news, results, photos and tech reporting. The site continues to be the most comprehensive and authoritative English voice in professional cycling.