The short-but-volatile saga involving Tom Dumoulin's future looks set to come to a head in the next few days, with Team Sunweb and their manager Iwan Spekenbrink set to decide whether they will release Dumoulin from his current contract. Dumoulin has a deal with Team Sunweb until the end of the 2021 season but, according to several reports in the Dutch media, he has become increasingly frustrated with the squad with which he won the Giro d’Italia in 2017.
Clashes over rider recruitment last winter and the handling of Dumoulin's current knee injury are just the latest ruptures in the relationship between the team and their star rider, but Spekenbrink currently holds all the cards, as only he can decide whether to accept a buy-out option from either a rival team or Dumoulin himself.
Dumoulin is currently waiting on Spekenbrink to agree to a release, with a meeting taking place this week between Spekenbrink and Dumoulin’s agent. Dumoulin would obviously prefer an amicable split rather than taking the matter to the Dutch courts, while Spekenbrink will be in no hurry to agree to terms without creating alternative plans without Dumoulin.
Cyclingnews understands that Dumoulin's heart is set on leaving Sunweb and joining Jumbo-Visma, as he would like to remain within a Dutch set-up. However, Team Ineos and CCC Team have both expressed interest in the rider. Bora-Hansgrohe and UAE Team Emirates have also made initial inquiries but their interests are weak in comparison. Although other teams could potentially offer more money, a move to Jumbo-Visma at this stage is the most likely outcome, along with an increase in salary from around €2.25 million a year to between €2.5-3 million.
A possible switch to Jumbo-Visma may have looked strange when it was first surfaced in the Dutch press due to the fact that the rival squad are already stacked with GC riders, but a deeper analysis suggests that the move is based on solid reasoning. Cyclingnews understands that, despite having Primoz Roglic, Steven Kruijswijk and George Bennett under contracts for the next few seasons, they see Dumoulin as the icing on the cake in terms of stage racing power.
Jumbo-Visma have increased investment in the last two seasons and believe that in order to dismantle Team Ineos’ stranglehold on the Tour de France they must arrive at a Grand Départ with between three and four of the 10 best stage race riders in the world. It’s understood that Jumbo-Visma believe that Dumoulin would sacrifice some of his own Grand Tour ambitions in order to fit in with a more powerful GC group and aim for a more collective win, rather than be the only focal point on the squad, as he currently is at Sunweb.
Dumoulin was disappointed over the winter when experienced climber Laurens ten Dam was not retained. He apparently asked that the veteran should be kept on but the management allowed Ten Dam to leave for CCC. Sunweb have been unlucky with injuries in the last two seasons but, more often than not, they have struggled to support Dumoulin in his Grand Tour ambitions, while the call to target both the Giro and the Tour has only diluted their possible potential.
That said, the team helped Dumoulin to second in both the Giro and Tour last year, despite having fewer resources than several rival WorldTour teams. However, over the winter they failed to address their stage racing weakness, with only Nicolas Roche added to their roster in that department. They have nurtured several young riders in recent years, with Sam Oomen and Chad Haga two standout athletes.
The next few days are said to be critical as, behind the scenes, all the parties involved look to find a solution. For now, the ball is in Sunweb’s court. If their sponsors decide that losing Dumoulin is unthinkable, then he could be forced to remain until his contract expires. Another hurdle is the fact that, even if Dumoulin is released, Sunweb would struggle to find a replacement this late in the season. Most of the real Grand Tour contenders have either agreed to terms with other squads or already have teams for the coming seasons. Spekenbrink will at least be able to use his experience in these matters.
The Dutchman cashed in on Warren Barguil when the Frenchman was at his peak on the road but had become a destabilizing presence within the team, while he also annulled Marcel Kittel’s contract when the German sprinter went off the boil several years ago. Spekenbrink must now use that knowledge to decide what’s best for the future of his team. Neither Sunweb or Jumbo Visma would comment on the situation.