Sunweb boss Iwan Spekenbrink has defended his team over the departure of Tom Dumoulin to Jumbo-Visma, saying no mistakes were made in treating his knee injury last year.
Spekenbrink says the best way to treat the injury would have been rest but that they were working with Dumoulin to realise his ambition of racing in the 2019 Tour de France, which always carried the risk of further aggravating his knee.
“No [there were no mistakes made], and Tom will say that too. He fell in the Giro last year and his knee was damaged there,” Spekenbrink told De Telegraaf.
“What happens then is that he is super driven and ambitious to make the Tour, just like we are with the team. The best way to get that knee healed is rest, but if you want to appear in the Tour as in-form as possible, you have to burden that joint.
“Go find that balance. Everyone wanted to make that attempt to participate, there is nothing wrong with that.”
The culmination of a frustrating season saw Dumoulin leave Sunweb for Jumbo-Visma, with his contract eventually being terminated by mutual consent, a method the German team has described as “unique” in cycling.
Explaining the decision, Spekenbrink said: “If an athlete has less commitment, it also means that he performs less. Then both of you are no longer moving forward and therefore it was easier to let Tom go.”
Maintaining that no mistakes were made with the handling of Dumoulin during his time off the bike, Spekenbrink instead says there were “points for improvement”, particularly in the decision to back their rider to recover in time to make the start line for the Tour de France.
“If you look at points for improvement, there are some, because luckily we all make mistakes. We are very self-critical and we also learn from this,” Spekenbrink said.
“But at such a moment you have to deal with a person and athlete who has worked all year round and has experienced a huge disappointment. As a team, we also have that drive and want to continue. We all said, ‘let’s go for it’. In retrospect, we should have decided earlier that the Tour was not feasible.”
After crashing out of the Giro d’Italia, Dumoulin attempted to prepare for the Tour at the Critérium du Dauphiné but also abandoned that race to try and avoid further aggravating his knee. Then, after further minor surgery, Dumoulin was on his way to an altitude training camp in the Alps before turning the car around en route, deciding he didn’t feel good enough. The news he wouldn’t race the Tour de France broke soon after.
In his season for Jumbo-Visma Dumoulin will target the Tokyo Olympics and Tour de France, lining up as one of three potential team leaders at the French Grand Tour alongside Primož Roglič and Steven Kruijswijk.
Meanwhile, Sunweb are looking to move on with Michael Matthews and new signing Tiesj Benoot targeting the spring Classics and Wilco Kelderman and Sam Oomen their hopes for the Grand Tours.