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Tom Dumoulin has announced he will step away from pro racing, for the time being at least, in a video released by Team Jumbo-Visma. Just 24 hours after he was announced as one of the team’s co-leaders for this year’s Tour De France, the 2017 Giro D’Italia winner has stepped away from racing with immediate effect and is now travelling home from the team training camp.
In the video, Dumoulin spoke candidly about the reasoning for his decision, the timing, and the pressures that led to it.
“I have been doubting for quite some time, months, maybe even a year, how I should find my way as Tom Dumoulin the cyclist,” he said. “The pressure, the expectations from different parties, I just want to do well for the team, for the sponsors, for my wife, for my family. I want to do well for everybody but over the course of doing that I kind of forgot myself.”
Dumoulin’s life as a cyclist changed when he won the Giro in 2017, as his name cemented itself in every list of top grand tour contenders. The pressure rose along with expectations, compounded by a tendon injury that led him to miss the 2019 Tour de France entirely. In the last year, he has more often worked in the service of others, a super domestique for the likes of Primoz Roglic. He finished 7th in the 2020 Tour de France.
“The questions kept lingering all those months: if I want to continue as a pro cyclist, how am I going to continue, do I want to win the tour, and how? That’s a question that has been bubbling up inside of me for several months really deep,” he said. “I don’t get to answer that question because life as a professional cyclist goes on. You’re on an express train to the next training camp, to the next race, and the next goals. But that question is there and I don’t get time to answer it.
“I don’t know the answer to the question and I keep putting the question on somebody else’s plate, just to try and do well for others. It doesn’t give me any results… and it doesn’t give me any happiness. I became unhappy slowly and that’s a shame because it doesn’t amount to anything.
“That’s why I am leaving for a while. I am going to talk to people, think, and who knows what it will lead to.”
Dumoulin made it clear he has not thought beyond the immediate future and will focus on just enjoying the break.
“Who knows where it will lead? In any case, I’m going to talk a lot, call people. Think a lot, take the dog for a walk and look for what I as a human being want with the bike. What do I want as a human being with my life.”
Team Jumbo-Visma has supported Dumoulin, and in the video announcement, he seemed visibly much happier than we have seen him of late. He spoke of the relief in having made this decision.
“I took the decision yesterday, and the team supports me in it. It feels really good. It is really as if a backpack of 100kg has slipped off my shoulders. I Immediately woke up happy,” he said.
On being asked if he can understand how some might find his decision incomprehensible, Dumoulin was definitive in his answer.
“Yes of course. For too long I have cared about everything, what everyone thinks. It’s about time that I figure out what I want.”
“In the end, all those people, the people in my team, and my teammates, and especially myself, don’t benefit at all from me stumbling on now and eventually ending up 12th in the tour of fifth in the Olympics.
“For a long time, I also tried to think: maybe if I just start cycling again, I mean I still like cycling. Maybe if I just go to training camp, the right feeling will come back.
“Now that I was at training camp again with the team and then I find myself thinking that I just can’t find the answer while I’m still in that merry go round, while I’m still on that train.
“Maybe I will catch that same train again, in two months’ time, with a lot of fresh courage,” he said. Or maybe not. “Maybe I will catch a completely different train.”
When questioned if Team Jumbo-Visma had failed him in any way, Dumoulin returned the show of support. “No, not at all,” he said. “I’m very happy with how the team has reacted.”