Tom Dumoulin (Jumbo-Visma) is set to undergo a shift in his race programme as he shelves Liège-Bastogne-Liège and heads for the cobbled Classics.
It won't be Dumoulin's first participation in the Ronde, given he rode it as a neo-pro in 2012, but back then he was a late call-up to plug gaps in Argos-Shimano's squad, and did not finish.
This time, while there won't be any expectation of success, there will be a sense of anticipation as we discover what he can do on the cobbles and hills of Flanders. Wout Van Aert, second at Flanders in 2020, is the undisputed leader for Jumbo-Visma, but Dumoulin could play a useful role.
In the build-up, Dumoulin will reportedly also ride the E3 Saxo Bank Classic, which is the Flemish race that bears most resemblance to Flanders. None of the other cobbled Classics are on the agenda for the moment.
Dumoulin has been a fixture at Liège-Bastogne-Liège over the years, his best result coming last year with 12th, when he propelled Primož Roglič to victory. He has regularly ridden his home Classic, the Amstel Gold Race, while his last appearance at La Flèche Wallonne came in 2014. This year, however, Dumoulin is set to step back from the Ardennes races.
Wielerflits reports that ahead of the cobbles will be two other major Classics of which he has significant experience. First comes Strade Bianche on March 6, where he was fifth in 2017, and Milan-San Remo, where he was 11th in 2019. Wout Van Aert won both last year and is set to lead the line again.
In between those two races, the Tirreno-Adriatico stage race will form a solid block of racing in Italy. Meanwhile, after Flanders, he won't go on to Paris-Roubaix but will instead ride the Tour de Romandie stage race in late April.
We’re looking forward to see @tom_dumoulin shining in Flanders Finest! 👊🏻🤗 #RVV pic.twitter.com/MpZXhWXP6yJanuary 9, 2021
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