At the Tour de France, he sacrificed his own ambitions for Primož Roglič but, as the Vuelta a España rolls out on Tuesday for 18 stages, Tom Dumoulin is fully focused on finishing on the podium himself.
The Dutchman heads into the race with a sizable chunk of the Jumbo-Visma squad that raced the Tour de France, including second-placed finisher and last year's Vuelta winner Roglič, but Dumoulin is aiming to have better legs than the ones that carried him to seventh overall in Paris.
"I hope to still have the legs and maybe even better legs than I did at the Tour and be fighting for the podium. That’s definitely my ambition," he told Cyclingnews during a short call on Monday afternoon.
Dumoulin had just completed his main press conference, alongside Roglič of course, when he spoke to Cyclingnews. Just as they had done during the Tour de France, both riders provided a united front and there's little doubt that they will work together and decide between themselves who has a better chance of overall victory in Spain.
The pair have a strong relationship on and off the bike, and it was Dumoulin who also provided important cover on the final climb of Liège-Bastogne-Liège before Roglič followed the key attack from Julian Alaphilippe.
"We have a really strong team here again," Dumoulin said in reference to Roglič, Robert Gesink, George Bennett, and the ever-improving Sepp Kuss, who won a stage in the Vuelta last year.
"We have a couple of guys who did the Tour de France and we go for the overall with Primož, me, or whoever is best at the end of the year. It’s a great position and we hope to benefit from that," Dumoulin said.
"The first week is already really tough and it’s the hardest of the three weeks. It’s strange for a Grand Tour to have the hardest week at the start so we’ll know quickly who is best and who we go for."
For Dumoulin, this has been a rollercoaster of a year. He ended 2019 by nullifying his contract at Sunweb and changing squads but needed most of the off-season to regain fitness and form after the knee injury that ruined his 2019 campaign. There was to be no racing before lockdown due to illness but, after over a year without competition, he has steadily improved.
Whether he’s at the same level that saw him win the Giro in 2017 or finish second in both the Tour and Giro in 2018 remains to be seen, but the 29-year-old has been satisfied with the trajectory of his improvements.
"It’s been a tough period with leading up to the Tour and then doing the Tour before the Vuelta. But I was very happy with where I was during that period," he said.
"There was a long period before where I didn’t race so I was happy to be back and at a good level. For the future and maybe this Vuelta, I want to improve on that and then I can be very close to the podium. But I have to see if that can happen this year at the Vuelta or in next season.
"It’s been a strange period, too, with the whole season packed into three months, so it’s been tough but my general and physical feeling is still very good so I hope to be able to do a good three-week Vuelta again."
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