Tom Dumoulin ruled out of Tour de France

Tom Dumoulin (Team Sunweb) will not race the Tour de France, explaining on Thursday that his lingering knee injury means it's "not realistic" for him to be able to compete for the title in July.

The Dutchman fell on his knee at the Giro d'Italia, leaving the race on stage 5. He turned his focus to the Tour de France, but he has not been able to recover as quickly as hoped. He lined out at the recent Critérium du Dauphiné but was forced out after five stages as the knee flared up again. He underwent surgery on Sunday to remove a shard of gravel and was passed fit to head for an altitude training camp, but turned around en route to the French Alps.

Earlier this week, Team Sunweb said the camp had been postponed "by a few days", but on Thursday it was announced that Dumoulin will definitely not be riding the Tour de France.

"The last month has been extremely difficult overall, and with the setbacks in the knee recovery. After what happened at the Giro I really wanted to go for it in the Tour, but this week I realised it's just not realistic for my level to be there in time," Dumoulin said.

"I've tried so hard to get there but I really have to listen to my body and release myself from chasing an unrealistic goal."

It's a bitter setback for the 28-year-old Dutchman, who finished runner-up at both the Giro and Tour last year, having won the Giro in 2017. He was set to go for the double once again, but when he left the Giro so early it was expected he would be an even bigger threat in July.

However, the recovery was more complicated than anticipated, and he lined up at the Dauphiné still with some fluid in the knee and damage to the cartilage. The writing was perhaps on the wall when he was forced to leave the race ahead of the key mountain stages. If not, it certainly was when he set off for the French Alps straight after his operation, only to turn around several hours into his journey. With 10 stitches on his knee, his head was apparently filled with doubts and he phoned his coach three times before pulling the plug.

"Tom was really eager to be ready in time for the Tour and he tried all he could, but now the conclusion is that it's simply not possible," Team Sunweb physician Anko Boelens said on Thursday.

"We trusted in the process of rest, recuperation and a gradual return to racing but like in any recovery, there have been setbacks. Time isn't on our side anymore to cater for setbacks so to give Tom the time he needs to get back to complete fitness can only be the right decision. Despite his strong will and ambition to race the Tour de France it's better to let this goal go this year in favor of optimum recovery."

Dumoulin will now switch his focus to the Vuelta a España in August and September, with the World Championships time trial another likely target at the end of September.

As for Team Sunweb at the Tour, the line will be led by Wilco Kelderman, who was set to support Dumoulin at the Giro and Tour but was ruled out of the Italian race through injury.

Sunweb also have Michael Matthews to compete for stage wins and the green jersey, which he won two years ago.

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