Tour de Suisse cycling - Tom Dumoulin returns to racing at Tour de France warm-up with mountains on the menu
After several months away from the sport, Dumoulin makes his return to racing at the 2021 Tour de Suisse, which kicks off with an individual time trial on June 6. Typically a warm-up for the Tour de France, the eight-stage race takes on a tough course that will put anyone hoping to perform at the Tour or subsequent Olympics to the test.
'Very good news' - Engels reacts to Dumoulin's comeback
Six months after announcing he would be taking a break from professional cycling, Dutch Grand Tour winner Tom Dumoulin will return to the sport at the upcoming Tour de Suisse.
The eight-day stage race takes place from June 6-13 and will begin with an 11km prologue time trial, something that will no doubt pique Dumoulin’s interest. The former world time trial champion has endured a couple of disappointing seasons with fluctuating form and a plague of injuries, and in 2019 he left Team Sunweb and joined Dutch team Jumbo-Visma with the hope of reinvigorating his cycling.
After playing a crucial role in Primož Roglič’s second place at last year’s Tour de France, it looked as if he was finding his feet again. But in January of this year, just days after he was included in Jumbo-Visma’s provisional Tour de France lineup, he announced he would be taking an indefinite break from cycling and admitted to struggling with the pressures of the sport.
Then in a statement on May 18, Jumbo-Visma announced that the 2017 Giro d’Italia winner would be returning to the WorldTour in June after rediscovering ‘the joy of cycling’. He was even spotted by eagle-eyed viewers at the Amstel Gold Race in April, which apparently triggered Dumoulin’s realisation that the sport of cycling is where he belongs, "This is a world in which I have built up something in recent years but that has also really become my world. A world that I really like.”
Another motivation for his return appears to be Olympic selection for the time trial. He will race the National Championships in the Netherlands in mid-June, and then hopefully go to the Tokyo Olympics where he will look to better his silver medal at the 2016 Rio games.
The Tour de Suisse field looks to be stacked, with top riders such as Julian Alaphilippe, Mathieu van der Poel and Adam Yates headlining the start sheet. Although he will be racing with little expectation, it would be naive of us to ignore Dumoulin’s potential, especially in the two time trials.
Tom Dumoulin of Netherlands - Team Jumbo-Visma during his Individual Time-Trial of Stage 20 on September 19, 2020 in Plancher Bas, France. (Photo by Marcio Machado/Eurasia Sport Images/Getty Images)
Image credit: Getty Images
After the race was cancelled last year, the 84th edition of the Tour de Suisse is going all out, with 17,844 metres of climbing over the eight days, taking in some extremely demanding mountains in the latter half of the race.
One of the most beautiful stage races on the calendar, coverage will deliver views of natural wonders like Lake Zurich and architectural treasures like the 18th-century St Urban monastery to name just a couple. After the opening time trial on June 6, stages two to four present the best chances for the breakaways and sprinters, although none of them are 'flat' per se. A second time trial takes place on Stage 7, a very challenging 23.2km up and down route that climbs the Oberalp Pass before descending into Andermatt. The battle for the overall will likely play out into the final day as the stage takes in three categorised climbs including the hors catégorie Gotthard Pass before a short descent to the finish line.
It looks to be an exciting week of racing in the run-up to the Tour de France, and with the added storyline of Dumoulin hoping to find some form before his time trial-focussed summer, there will be plenty to watch for. Whatever shape his racing schedule takes, the main hope is that the Dutchman returns to a fulfilling and fruitful career, and that we all get to see his hard-earned smile that has been so sorely missed in the peloton.
OUR VIEW - Why was Dumoulin compelled to leave cycling?
Like the premature retirements of Marcel Kittel and Pete Kennaugh in recent years, Tom Dumoulin’s January announcement made the cycling world reflect. More recently, the expectation and excitement that swirled around Remco Evenepoel at the Giro d’Italia has again asked questions of the intense demands placed on riders.
With the information available, it’s hard to know exactly what Dumoulin has been going through (and in truth, we don’t really need to know), but with a growing understanding of the importance of balancing physical and mental health, his announcement was frankly unsurprising. That’s not to say that it was expected from him, but in a world of social media, who can blame him? A cyclist under such continuous public pressure? It’s a wonder there haven’t been more.
Maybe his return has come sooner than some anticipated - not even six months after he stepped away - but rather than question him, we should sharpen the microscope on the sport and ask why Dumoulin, a prolific winner, was compelled to leave the sport he loves.