Tom Dumoulin is relishing the opportunity to return to the cobbled Classics in 2021, as the Grand Tour star shakes up his early season.
Dumoulin says that Wout van Aert will be the leader in the Belgian one-day races, but added there may be an opportunity for himself amidst the chaos.
Speaking from the Jumbo-Visma training camp, former Giro d’Italia winner Dumoulin said: “I said a couple of years ago, but also last year I mentioned to [sports director] Merijn Zeeman that one day I want to do the cobbled Classics, that would be really nice.
“Then he asked me at the end of the year ‘instead of the Ardennes classics, what would you think about doing the cobbled Classics?’”
Dumoulin added: “I always love the riding the cobbles. If there’s a Roubaix stage in the Tour I’m always excited about it – I think I’m one of the only GC riders who is actually excited and not afraid.”
Traditionally Dumoulin, 30, has started his season in the same way, racing Milan-San Remo and Liège-Bastogne-Liège as he builds towards his Grand Tour ambitions.
Only once has he raced a cobbled Monument, the 2012 Tour of Flanders which he failed to finish.
But this season Dumoulin will be racing a different programme, starting his season at Strade Bianche, then heading to Tirreno-Adriatico and Milan-San Remo before lining up in Belgium for the E3 Saxo Bank Classic and the Tour of Flanders.
Later in the season, Dumoulin plans to race the Tour de Romandie before heading to France.
On his ambitions for the cobbles, Dumoulin said: “I am actually quite confident that I can get pretty far.
“Wout van Aert is our leader in those races and I think he’s one of the best riders in the world when he’s in top shape.
“We can definitely aim to go for the win with him in the first place, but these races are very open and unpredictable – a lot can happen in the final.”
Dumoulin’s main goal is still the Tour de France, where he finished second in 2018, as he hopes to support Jumbo-Visma’s main Grand Tour leader Primož Roglič.
While Roglič will be Jumbo’s first choice, Dumoulin said that he and Steven Kruijswijk will be “shadow leaders,” ready to step up of the race demands it.