The despondency was not only imprisoned in his words, but also reflected in his entire body language. Tom Dumoulin stepped into the 15 . full of disappointmente drive from the Giro d’Italia towards Turin. In his favorite round, he had hoped to rediscover his talent as a classification rider. However, it turned into a round where he discovered that his body was no longer doing what his head wanted. An observation that he already made after the fourth stage with the finish on Etna and which he then had to experience again and again in the further course of the Giro.
Last year’s announcement on Saturday 23 January to temporarily stop was still a bolt from the blue for most, this time after his retirement in the Giro d’Italia everyone took into account that Dumoulin might be done with cycling. If doubts take over and motivation is broken as a result, there is often no turning back in a tough sport like cycling.
Since his fall in the fourth stage of the 2019 Giro d’Italia to Frascati, where he suffered a deep knee injury, he has never been able to reach his best level physically. And if things don’t go as planned, Dumoulin is not the easiest person for himself. Then he also gets in his way several times.
He himself feels that in his will to quickly return to the world top in 2020, he has become overtrained and that this problem has continued to haunt him. It is clear, however, that the marriage with Jumbo-Visma has not worked for the past three years, although both parties have worked with a positive approach.
The misery in the past three years is not wrong. In 2020, Dumoulin had to return after his serious knee injury, intestinal parasites and the corona lockdown. In 2021, he was thrown back by the four-month period in which he had to find out for himself whether he wanted to continue cycling. When he seemed to be back on track with the silver medal in the Olympic time trial and a strong Benelux Tour, he was hit by a motorist during a training trip and broke his wrist.
This spring he felt old-fashioned strong again on the altitude training course in Colombia, but he had to deal with back problems in the mountain stages of the UAE Tour, while after this race in the Persian Gulf he was hit by a corona infection that threw him back far. In fact, given the minimal number of race days, he already started an unfair battle in the Giro d’Italia.
The announcement of the end of his era makes for a sad day in cycling, while someone with such a rich track record must be accompanied to his last pedal revolution with a standing ovation.
Not only his fantastic list of achievements, with the overall victory in the Giro d’Italia in 2017 as the absolute highlight, typifies Dumoulin’s career. The Maastricht resident was, although he will still be racing until the end of this season, a jewel for cycling. His beautiful style on the bike has been described by some as bike porn, but also with his attacking attitude he colored many matches. When Dumoulin was at the start, something always happened.
For us journalists it was a privilege to be able to follow his career closely. Every conversation you had with him was exhilarating. He always had an opinion or an interesting approach. Perhaps it would have been wiser to have been more diplomatic in his answers on a regular basis, but you don’t change the nature of the beast.
After his press conference last May in Vught in which he announced his return to cycling, he said to me: “I had intended to give short answers, but I can’t. I don’t understand how someone like Chris Froome manages to do this over and over again.” It typifies his personality, who also likes to be triggered in a conversation.
Dumoulin has often described himself as an atypical cyclist throughout his career. He was perhaps too much of a thinker. And just when doubts begin to prevail in a thinker, it can become an enemy of yours. In recent years after his fall in the 2019 Giro, he became increasingly trapped in his own setbacks and disappointments. Time and again he had to deal with blows, so that he lost the pleasure of cycling more and more.
He loved the sport, but he also loved the game of tormenting his main competitors on the bike. He needed that challenge. To be able to make all the sacrifices, especially being away from home, he needed that feeling of competing with the best. For the Amstel Gold Race he said it out loud again: he was not a cyclist to ride in the margins.
In the last Giro d’Italia he got the feeling that he was far from the level to ever compete with the top again. All physical discomforts blocked him from getting the most out of the bike.
When he gave up in Turin, this choice to stop was largely made. He no longer wanted to hear that many large teams were convinced that they could bring him back to the top in the coming years. BikeExchange-Jayco, Trek-Segafredo, Alpecin-Fenix, Intermarché-Wanty-Gobert, BORA-hansgrohe and Israel-Premier Tech were eager to work with him from next year, but Dumoulin was no longer open to this. He had already put a line through his initial plan to continue up to and including the Paris 2024 Olympics.
His choice deserves respect. Tom Dumoulin has stayed close to himself. He was part of the professional peloton for eleven years. A world that he himself said in the beginning was not really his own, but which he has come to love more and more.
Personally, I think it is a shame that Dumoulin has made the final choice to end his career after this season, especially at this moment, when the disappointment of the abandonment of the Giro d’Italia still prevails. In my opinion, it would have been better for him to ride a program with, among other things, the Tour of Poland, Benelux Tour, World Cup in Australia and the Italian classics, and then make a decision. And especially to hear how other teams would like to work with him. A completely different, freer approach such as Mathieu van der Poel encountered at Alpecin-Fenix might also have had a soothing effect.
He himself is now mainly relieved that he has made a decision and thus the yo-yo in his mind has come to an end whether cycling at the highest level still brings pleasure.
Let’s not color this day with mourning, but above all celebrate what a wonderful cyclist we have known with Tom Dumoulin over the past decade. How he gave cycling the necessary shine again in the period when cycling had to come out of the darkest period with his sincere answers and ambitious course method. And he has given the Dutch cycling youth back the belief that a cyclist from our flat polder country can also win a big round.