Tom Dumoulin has revealed that despite being a Grand Tour winner and counting two second places in three-week races, he has often struggled with the demands of being a team leader.
It is why the Dutchman is satisfied that Jumbo-Visma have selected both him and Tobias Foss as their leaders at May's Giro d'Italia, the race where Dumoulin will return to Grand Tour action after missing large parts of the 2021 season to determine if he still wanted to remain a cyclist.
The Italian race is the scene of the 31-year-old's greatest triumph when he won the maglia rosa in 2017, but in an honest assessment on his return to the first Grand Tour of the season, Dumoulin admitted that sharing responsibility with the 24-year-old Foss pleases him.
"That's very nice," he told his team's website. "I am not really an alpha male. I've struggled with having a whole crew revolve around me in the past.
"It's nicer that I can now share the leadership with Tobias in that respect. He is a very nice and suitable rider for that.
"I hope we can both reach a high level and in that case we can help each other in the finals."
Last January Dumoulin took an indefinite break from cycling to assess his life and motivation as a bike rider, concluding after a few months that he did still have the desire to remain a professional.
He returned at the Tour de Suisse and also rode the Olympic Games and the Benelux Tour, but the upcoming season will be the first time he has raced a packed program since the rescheduled calendar of the 2020 Covid-affected season.
"My cycling life looks very different now compared to a year ago," he said. "At that moment, I had to stop myself.
"In hindsight, I'm happy I did that at the time. I made a conscious choice to be a cyclist. It has its good sides but also it's downsides.
"I can live with that better now because I know this is what I really want. Now it's a new year with a new Tom Dumoulin.
"I am in a different place now. I feel really good and I'm looking forward to the coming year. I have a lot of ambitions."
Dumoulin will begin his season at the UAE Tour, before riding Strade Bianche, Volta a Catalunya and Amstel Gold Race ahead of a tilt at the Giro that he is confident of.
"For various reasons it has been a while since I rode for a classification," he assessed. "I don't think I have lost the touch. It is something I have always been naturally good at.
"The only downside is that there are perhaps too few time trial kilometres included in the course."
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