Tom Dumoulin (Sunweb) has posted an update on his recovery from a knee injury that has blighted his 2019 season, with doctors telling the Dutchman he will eventually make a return to the form to compete for further Grand Tour titles.
The 28-year-old has undergone two surgeries on his left knee after a crash in the early stages of the 2019 Giro d'Italia, with Dumoulin not recovering in time for either the Tour de France, Vuelta a España or Road World Championships.
The second operation was decided at the end of July, when it became clear the Dutchman wouldn't recover fully without it, so went under the knife again to clean the quadricep tendon of unhealthy tissue before he was stitched back up.
"The operation went very well," Dumoulin said. "The only problem with tendon tissue is that it's a badly vascularised tissue and that causes slow healing. I've been told that recovering from this injury is a fine balance between not doing enough training (which I haven't really found what that means) and doing too much training (which I unfortunately found out a couple of times already). But it's going in the right direction now."
Progress has been a long time coming for Dumoulin, who finished runner-up at the 2018 Tour de France, and doctors have told him he should expect to return to the condition that has seen him previously win and challenge for Grand Tour titles going in to 2020.
"The first few weeks I couldn't do much. In the beginning, even walking was very demanding. But at the moment I'm slowly starting to feel like an athlete again...The doctors have no doubt my knee will not hold me back from coming back to my normal level. It will just take time."
The Dutchman will presumably be chomping at the bit to get back to racing next year, trading the red colours of Sunweb for the yellow of Jumbo-Visma.
"This whole year has been very demanding, physically and mentally, but at the same time very liberating and mind opening. Missing out on being competitive at the highest level has made me appreciate even more what I had, and what I want in the next couple of years. I want to go back to do everything I can to be the best version of myself on the bike, to go back to winning races, to try and win another Grand Tour."
Having won the 2017 Giro d'Italia, Dumoulin will target further Grand Tour victories, but will have to compete for leadership responsibilities in the biggest races with team-mates Steven Kruijswijk and Vuelta a España 2019 winner Primož Roglič.
"I hopefully have another five or six, maybe more, good years in my legs," Dumoulin said. "Let's make the most of them!"
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