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Could Tom Dumoulin be racing his bike sometime soon?
The official answer is a “no,” but the evidence is pointing toward a “maybe.”
Four months ago, the Jumbo-Visma ace made a shock decision to step away from pro racing in the hopes that a hiatus from the pressure-cooker peloton would help him rediscover his love for the sport. Last weekend, Dumoulin made a guest appearance at his local Amstel Gold Race and was spotted catching up with his teammates, stirring a frenzy of hope and rumor among both home and international fans.
This week, Dutch outlet Wielerflits reported that Dumoulin has been offered a COVID vaccination after authorities in the Netherlands gave the green light for athletes shortlisted for the Olympics to be given an early pass for the jab.
Speculation is swirling. But if a comeback is on the cards, Dumoulin’s team isn’t letting on.
“No [update] – it’s the same,” a team representative said this week. “He needs time to make decisions and we respect that.”
Gespot bij de start van de Amstel Gold Race, enigszins incognito: Tom Dumoulin.
De Girowinnaar heeft een pauze ingelast voor onbepaalde tijd, maar kwam wel even een kijkje nemen bij de start. pic.twitter.com/cyh5QaReMf
— NOS Sport (@NOSsport) April 18, 2021
After taking silver behind Fabian Cancellara in 2016, the long, lumpy ITT on tap in the Tokyo Games offers Dumoulin a dream opportunity to snatch Olympic gold this summer. The 30-year-old has been seen wearing his Jumbo-Visma kit while training on his time trial bike in recent months, offering Dutch cycling chiefs some glimmers of hope as mystery continues to shroud the future of its top star.
With official word still absent, even teammates in direct contact with Dumoulin are uncertain whether they will be seeing the return of Jumbo-Visma’s talisman anytime soon.
“I have had a lot of contact with Tom via Whatsapp in recent weeks,” Primož Roglič told NOS ahead of Amstel Gold Race on Sunday. “He told me that he still doesn’t know. I then wrote back that he should not put any pressure on himself.”
Speaking with VeloNews earlier this month, George Bennett said similar – that Dumoulin needs room to breathe as he reconfigures and reassesses what he wants.
“I’ve had a few messages with him,” Bennett said on a telephone call. “I think he’s sort of on this journey of finding out what he wants. I’m not going to use metaphors and say ‘finding himself ‘ but just finding what he wants to do and what makes him happy. We all hope that involves coming back to cycling but if it doesn’t then he’s made the right decision.”
Dumoulin is not the first top pro to make the call to step away from the bike ahead of time. German sprint supremo Marcel Kittel and former-Team Sky rider Pete Kennaugh both took what was originally planned as a pause from racing, only to never return. Will the story be the same for “The Butterfly of Maastricht?”
TT bike-riding and fan-style race-watching is one thing.
An Olympic Gold medal or a Tour de France appearance is a whole different ball game.
For now, the world can wait for Tom Dumoulin.