Tom Dumoulin has said he is open to competing at Grand Tours again next season, though he added that a decision on his racing programme for 2022 will only be made after he consults with his Jumbo-Visma team in December.
The Dutchman won the Giro d’Italia in 2017 and placed second overall at both the Giro and Tour de France the following season. He put his career on hiatus ahead of the 2021 season, citing burnout, but he returned to competition in June and went on to claim silver in the time trial at the Tokyo Olympics.
“I became a cyclist to get the most out of myself,” Dumoulin said in an interview with Dutch magazine Helden. “Trying to get results is still the best thing for me. I don't get happy when I just have to ride on the front for others. Then I can also be of great value to the team at 95 per cent of my ability.
“But the feeling that you can perform well at 95 per cent, that doesn't fit with my level of ambition. I want to go for 100 per cent. I want to ride short races and of course win. Which races? We'll see in December. But I certainly don't exclude Grand Tours. I still find that very challenging and I know I can be very good at it.”
Back in August, Jumbo-Visma boss Richard Plugge hinted that Dumoulin could ride the Tour de France next season after a year away from Grand Tour racing.
Dumoulin abandoned the 2019 Giro d'Italia after crashing in the opening week at Frascati and he was later forced to miss that year’s Tour through injury. He switched from Sunweb to Jumbo-Visma ahead of the 2020 campaign, and he rode on behalf of his teammate Primož Roglič at the 2020 Tour, while also placing seventh overall in Paris.
Dumoulin abandoned the subsequent Vuelta a España, and he struggled when he began his preparations for the 2021 season last winter. In January, he announced that he was taking a break from competition.
“In January I couldn't even last two hours on the bike. I felt sick and miserable for the rest of the day after such a ride. I lay on the couch for hours,” Dumoulin said. “My body completely pulled on the brakes at that point. When you feel so weak, you lose the total joy of cycling. I even started to hate it. I had no choice but to cut the knot and quit in January. I couldn't go on like that.”
Dumoulin told Helden that stepping off the carousel of professional cycling had allowed him to take stock and, to an extent, take back control, saying: “I needed that period of time to find out that this was bothering me.”
He added that he had no issue with obligations of his fame such as giving interviews or posing for pictures with fans, but he had begun to feel that he had less and less input into the direction of his career.
“All the people around me want to get the most out of me. That's not wrong, because that's what I want [too],” Dumoulin said.
“They just want to achieve that goal by creating a whole environment around me, with the best experts in all areas to determine what is best for me. Everyone wants to contribute with the best will in the world to make me better. Hardly anyone thought about what and how I actually wanted it. Choices were made for me almost continuously, so that I could no longer indicate which direction I thought best. That often felt very oppressive.”
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