The little boy in it comes back to life on Sunday. The Amstel Gold Race is the race that made Tom Dumoulin become a cyclist. The Maastricht resident still remembers exactly the impression of classic Limburg, whose finish line was almost drawn in the backyard of his Maasboulevard home at the time. “That’s why I’m so happy after six years of absence, I’m finally back at the start of the Amstel Gold Race,” Dumoulin says happily.
His last participation dates back to 2016 when he scored 91ste Instead of achieving the desired result. After that, his home match did not fit with his program towards the Giro d’Italia for three years, and there was no copy in 2020 due to Corona and he entered a period of psychological respite for himself last spring. “Since Paris-Roubaix and the Amstel Gold Race have changed their dates this year, the race finally fits into my program again. That is the only reason I can start now. Although I am leaving for Tenerife on Monday, so I can finish training Little on the rise of three weeks there.”
It’s the Friday evening before the Amstel Gold Race when we meet Dumoulin at the Van der Valk Hotel in Maastricht. He admits that there is already some tension about the classic that will start in his hometown and be based on his training methods. “Although the tension in the match comes later and later,” he asserts. “Ten years ago, I started three days ago. Only now in the morning before the race, so this is perfect.”
A year ago, Dumoulin, as he put it, was on a hiatus. The fact that he reported himself to race director Leo van Vliet at the time to visit the Corona version of the Amstel Gold Race without an audience, was the first sign that his love of cycling life was starting to itch again. “I thought it was cool to visit the match as a spectator/guest. I sat in the car with Leo Van Vliet for a few laps. Yes, I learned it again.”
It was the old love of cycling that rediscovered him. “I’m known to not be from a cycling family. I didn’t grow up with a cycling bug. The only trigger I had to start cycling was the Amstel Gold Race. I can still remember how special it was for me as a little kid to watch that match around the corner Inferior to my childhood home. This is why the Amstel Gold race has always sparked something inside me and now it also brings out such warm feelings inside me that I am finally at the start again.”
We are now a year into a period in which I have rediscovered the desire to return as a professional cyclist. Is the fun of cycling completely back now?
“It doesn’t run after this spring. Then it automatically becomes less fun! Part of my fun is still performance related. I won’t be on the sidelines for five years. I don’t like it. Not starting at Strade Bianche and giving up at Tour of Catalonia are definitely fun moments. Then I’m as disappointed as I was ten years ago. Then I don’t really enjoy cycling, but in general the fun is definitely coming back again.”
So far, third place in the UAE Tour test has been Dumoulin’s only achievement this season. He hasn’t had much luck in the past six months. In September, he broke his wrist after being hit by a car on a training trip. On the UAE Tour, he had problems with his lower back in the mountain stages, forcing him to concede five minutes to Bougacar and his buddies twice. He was unable to start on the Strade Bianche due to a positive Corona test result and in Catalonia, he subsequently had to give up due to the fallout from that coronavirus.
Then you must have a strong armor, because these are hard mental blows.
After Catalonia, I’m really done with it. I wasn’t sick to death from corona, didn’t have a fever, but didn’t feel well for a few days. Then I might have started training too early to get to Catalonia. That was it. The only race I have on the WorldTour podium in the spring is for the Giro d’Italia. That’s where I really wanted to start. However, at the time, I wasn’t very healthy and fit. So this match came really early.”
How do you see your chances in the Amstel Gold Race?
“The chances of me getting on the podium are slim. Especially in its current form. That is how realistic I have to be. However, as a cyclist, you would never tell yourself before a race that it wouldn’t work. If you start a competition with that mentality… yeah “Sorry, but then you don’t have to start. If you ask me now do you have a chance? Yes I have a chance. That’s how I start every match.”
Do you look at the Amstel Gold Race differently now that you rode hard at the Volta Limburg Classic last Saturday?
“The Volta Limburg Classic is a completely different level to the Amstel Gold Race. It was a pleasure to be able to race and to be among the best in the race. This race has certainly given me hope and ambition.”
The change of lane is that the Gulperberg is driven from the other side, so you get more narrow roads to Kruisberg. Will that play a role?
“You have to be really busy with your position at Loorberg now to be good in the lineage of the King of Spain. It’s already much harder to finish Gulperberg first. However, I don’t expect that this is going to change the game and that a decisive step is already being taken here. Towards the party, you go down a narrow path, But towards Mechelen the road is also fairly wide. Not as wide as the motorway from Galben to Valls, but still wide enough to move around and regroup.”
What will your role be in the Amstel Gold Race?
“I’ll get a free role. Especially because we’re missing Wout van Aert (recovering from Corona infection, editor) and Primoz Roglic (running in the Basque Country, editor). With Tiesj Benoot and Christophe Laporte we have two riders who are in good shape, but they’re not exactly the frontrunners. Also. So we go into the final with an open mind, as I have a role as well.”
Would you expect another Amstel Gold race because so many climbers and perforators are now in the Basque Country?
“We are missing some good riders. On the other hand, you now also see Flemish action racers, such as Kasper Asgreen, who are now including Gold Race in their programme. I think the price trend will remain the same. Perhaps Flemish riders are better at using beech wood and setting Websites from Walloon Specialists.
The Flemish riders, with Mathieu van der Poel, love to open the race early. Is this to your advantage?
“Yes, we miss the absolute leaders in our squad with Wout and Primoz. So for us, a more open final would be a good thing.”