After his heavily rumoured transfer from Sunweb to Jumbo-Visma went through, Tom Dumoulin has opened up on how things had not felt right for a while, necessitating a need for him to leave the German team mid-contract.
“I had been walking around for a long time with the feeling that things were not going so well anymore,” Dumoulin said. “I couldn’t get the best out of myself and we couldn’t make each other better.”
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The Dutchman is said to not be overly motivated by money, and had a number of suitors, eventually opting for the right fit and not the biggest payday at the Dutch team. Although, Dumoulin is reported to see his pay increase from €1.5 million to €2.5 million.
Instead, Dumoulin says that while he has always had a combative relationship with the team, which he says is needed to remain competitive, the ability to solve these issues eventually gave way to disagreements that the rider says were too big for a solution to be reached.
“My manager always said: ‘without friction, no warmth’. That has been the case for eight years,” Dumoulin told Dutch broadcaster NOS. “We have rubbed together, but also created a lot of warmth. We have shown super beautiful things. Recently there was friction, but very little heat.”
When Dumoulin finally decided to put his feelings into action, and tell Sunweb team boss Iwan Spekenbrink he wanted to leave, he did so with a heavy heart. “I walked to Iwan with lead in my shoes. In a number of areas we were so far apart that I thought: this is going to be difficult,” Dumoulin said.
“The last months have not been fun”, the 28-year-old admits, “you can imagine that it has not always been nice conversations, it then comes down to business discussions. But my manager had a lot of wisdom: ‘if you are both dissatisfied with the deal, then you have a good deal.’ I’ll leave it at that.”
Spekenbrink appears to have made his peace with Dumoulin’s departure, realising the impossibility of keeping a star rider against their will and still being able to exact results from them.
“Tom is a unique Dutch sportsman, an icon. You love them in your team. But athletes come and go, that’s the reality,” Spekenbrink said.
“We have worked together super-intensively for eight years, in recent years under high voltage with high expectations,” he continued. “That an athlete then goes looking for a fresh environment with a new challenge…you don’t want that. But in the end we get it.”
Dumoulin’s contract with Sunweb was scheduled to run through until 2021, and Spekenbrink has described its early end as a unique moment in cycling. “It never actually happens, contracts are always respected. You can almost label it unique.”
Dumoulin’s 2019 season has been blighted by injury. A fall at the Giro d’Italia saw him abandon the race in the opening week, with a knee injury aggravating his recovery, the Dutchman then abandoning the Critérium du Dauphiné before eventually being ruled out of the Tour de France.
Further setbacks ensured Dumoulin would hopefully return to fitness in time for the Vuelta a España or, failing that, the worlds in Yorkshire. However, despite the Dutchman still holding on to the hope he will return in time for one race before the end of the season, he admits this would be an unexpected turn of events.
“Now, four weeks after the operation, I can resume cycling a little. The doctors are satisfied, but it will take a long time,” Dumoulin said.
“I hope that the rehabilitation goes very well and that I can still take a course at the end of the season but that is not the expectation. “