Tom Dumoulin has made it clear that he is open to a Grand Tour return in 2022, but explained that he needs to be fully fit to match his ambition and competitiveness of winning every race he participates in.
The Dutchman will go to Girona with his Jumbo-Visma team in mid-December ahead of their first training camp before the 2022 season. Dumoulin highlighted that he will discuss the plans for his upcoming season at the Spanish camp with team leaders and coaches, refusing to rule out participation in a Grand Tour.
Dumoulin told Dutch magazine Helden: "I became a cyclist to get the most out of myself. I still think that trying to get results is the best thing there is. It doesn't make me happy if I just have to ride ahead of others. Then I can be a great value to the team at 95 per cent of my ability.
"But performing well at 95 per cent doesn't match my level of ambition - I want to go for that 100 per cent. I want to ride and of course I want to win. In which races? We'll see in December. But I certainly don't rule out Grand Tours. I continue to find that very challenging and I know that I can be very good at that.”
Dumoulin last competed in a Grand Tour in 2020 at the Vuelta a España, which he abandoned after a week following a seventh-place finish at the Tour de France just a month prior. The Dutch rider then struggled during his preparations for the 2021 season, ultimately leading him to take an extended break from competitive cycling at the beginning of the year.
He explained that he faced difficult moments with his love of the sport at that time, choosing to take a break so that his relationship with cycling didn't deteriorate further, while also protecting his own mental health.
Dumoulin said: “After a month of rest I was still not fit. I was so tired that I started preparing for the new year. Then you keep cycling in the hope that it will get better on its own. However, it only got worse.
“In January I couldn't even last two hours on the bike. I felt sick and miserable for the rest of the day after such a trip. I lay on the couch for hours. My body had completely pulled on the brakes at that point. When you feel so weak, you lose the total joy of cycling. I even started to hate it. I had no choice but to cut the knot and quit myself in January. I couldn't go on like this."
During this period, Dumoulin feels like he managed to regain control of his life, realising that he had grown tired of people telling him what was best for his career. While he understands that sponsor obligations and interviews are the nature of the beast of becoming an elite-level cyclist, the 31-year-old also recognises that he had little say over what he actually did.
Dumoulin continued, saying: "I needed that period of time to find out that this was bothering me.
"All the people around me want to get the most out of me. That's not wrong, because that's what I want. They just want to achieve that goal by creating a whole environment around me, with the best experts in all areas who determine what is best for me. Everyone wants to contribute with the best will in the world to make me better.
"Hardly anyone thought about what and how I actually wanted it. Choices were made for me almost continuously, so that I could no longer indicate which direction I thought best. That often felt very oppressive.”
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