Thanks to his overall victory in the Giro d’Italia in 2017, Tom Dumoulin became one of the most famous athletes in the Netherlands. It was a status he could never really get used to and had to fight against in recent years. It was therefore not really surprising that the 31-year-old rider announced on Friday that he will stop after this season.
On the day his life changed forever, Dumoulin wanted everything to stay the same. “I hope people will continue to approach me in the same way,” said the Limburger five years ago in the shadow of the Milan Cathedral, just after he was the first Dutch man to win the Giro. “I really hope I can still walk through Maastricht without any problems. I can cycle fast, but I’m also just a normal person.”
It was an understandable, but also naive wish from an athlete who, after cycling hard through Italy for three weeks, became one of the best Dutch cyclists of all time. He stood in a row with living legends Jan Janssen and Joop Zoetemelk as the only Dutch winners of a Grand Tour; of course his life would never be the same again.
This became clear three days after his glory journey in Milan, when Dumoulin was honored by ten thousand people on the Market Square of his birthplace Maastricht. He thought it was “super cool”. But at the same time it was overwhelming for someone who has always shielded his private life as much as possible and did not become a professional cyclist for the attention. “I felt very uncomfortable with so many people,” he said after the ceremony.
The second big change was that Dumoulin could never again be anonymous in a cycling peloton. He was now a member of the very select group of Grand Tour winners and that means different expectations. “Soon, maybe next year, Tom will be here again, but then in his yellow jersey as the winner of the Tour de France”, Janssen already increased the pressure on the podium in Maastricht.
“I have always found it difficult that I have become a very big cyclist since my Giro victory,” said Dumoulin last May. “So much has happened since 2017 and I’ve never really taken the time to give it a place. The life of a top athlete always moves full steam ahead and at a certain point it started to get in the way.”
Dumoulin got motivation from Olympics again
Dumoulin already knows what it’s like to be a retired cyclist. Last January he surprised the cycling world with the message that he was going on indefinite leave. With all the changes in his life he had slowly lost the joy of cycling and in preparation for the 2021 season he noticed that even after a light training he was already very tired.
Dumoulin hoped to save his career with a hard reset. For weeks, his life consisted of walking his dog, doing odd jobs around his house, and talking to his wife and friends. He loved it, but he also noticed that he was not yet ready to say goodbye to the bike and his life as a professional. The time trial at the Tokyo Olympics had been a dream for five years and gave him enough motivation to continue his career. to end pause.
In Japan, Dumoulin proved with a silver medal that he was still one of the best cyclists in the world. And more importantly, he enjoyed his sport again. “This way I really enjoy being a pro rider,” he said at Fuji Speedway.
Roll of Honor Tom Dumoulin
- Overall victory Giro d’Italia (2017)
- World Time Trial Champion (2017)
- 3 stage wins in Tour de France (2016, 2018)
- 4 stage wins in Giro d’Italia (2016, 2017, 2018)
- 2 stage wins in Vuelta a España (2015)
- 2nd in Tour de France (2018)
- 2nd in Giro d’Italia (2018)
- 2 silver medals in the Olympic time trial (2016, 2021)
‘I will not be driving around in the margins for five years’
With the same pleasure and confidence, Dumoulin started the Tour of Italy a month ago in Budapest. Yes, it had been four years since he had competed in a Grand Tour for the overall win. And yes, he hadn’t had a good preseason. “But I’m 100 percent sure I can still ride a good classification,” he said a day before the first stage.
That optimism had already disappeared after four stages. Dumoulin lost almost seven minutes to his competitors in the first mountain stage of the Giro, so that he immediately had no chance for a podium place. In the fourteenth stage he got off because he was “empty”. “I don’t know what to say,” he said visibly agitated in front of the team bus. “I don’t have an answer right now as to why I’m not moving forward.”
There, in a street in Turin, Dumoulin seemed to realize that performing well would be difficult for the time being. “And part of my pleasure is still tied to my performance,” he said a month before the Giro. “I’m not going to be on the fringe for five years, I don’t like that.”
On Friday, Dumoulin communicated via a open letter on Instagram the decision that was almost a logical consequence. “I have decided that 2022 will be my last year as a cyclist,” he wrote. “The 100 percent dedication, everything I do and don’t do for my sport, and what I get in return, I feel has been imbalanced for some time.”
At the age of 31, this imbalance puts an end to one of the most successful Dutch cycling careers ever. Perhaps too early, but the most important sentence in Dumoulin’s letter is in the penultimate paragraph: “I am a happy person.”