When Tom Dumoulin determined to take a break from skilled racing in January 2020, he didn’t know whether or not he was waving goodbye to his profession as an expert bicycle owner for good. Making a comeback to win a silver medal on the Tokyo Olympics was a dream he hadn’t had but, all he needed was a break.
The Dutchman rides for high world tour group Jumbo-Visma and is a world and nationwide time trial champion and winner of the Giro d’Italia, and by January 2021 he was mentally and bodily spent.
“I used to be very able to say: ‘Okay that is it.’ If that was it, I might have been a really joyful man wanting again on an amazing profession,” he instructed ESPN. “It [my career] wasn’t so long as another riders however I used to be very pleased with what I achieved. It was not solely a interval to be joyful about what I achieved but additionally to be a contented individual once more. That was far more essential on the time. That is truly all the time far more essential.”
Dumoulin, 30, was overtrained. A syndrome that many athletes will expertise of their careers when their thoughts and physique can not recuperate from an distinctive stage of exertion. There are completely different ranges and it might probably have an effect on folks in numerous methods. The early levels might be purely bodily fatigue and a drop off in efficiency however for others there might be deeper psychological results which start with dropping the love and pleasure for the game, resulting in a downward spiral of poor psychological well being and despair.
Biking is a sport which frequently pushes the bounds of human endurance, whether or not it’s towards the clock in a time-trial over any given route, or over a three-week grand tour (wherein time trials are included). Riders reside on a knife fringe of pushing themselves to carry out at their peak, continually.
“Final yr I used to be already a few instances on the restrict,” he mentioned. “I seen and I felt that getting back from harm in 2019 was very demanding. Trying again now for a few years I used to be already on the sting of being bodily and mentally finished with performing each time and dealing with my ambitions and in addition the ambitions of the group and everyone round me.
“I feel it was a weight on my shoulders for a few years. Final yr, I would struggled lots already after which within the winter I did not recuperate any extra from the season. I needed to restart and construct up for this season however I seen fairly quickly that I wasn’t recovered, even after 4 weeks vacation.
“I hoped that feeling would go away and I educated and I constructed up and I attempted to get higher however in January I needed to pull the plug as a result of I used to be draining myself each mentally and bodily.”
Dumoulin took a five-month break from biking to recuperate from overtraining and re-frame how the game and his profession match into his life, and bear in mind who he’s off the bike.
For probably the most half he slept and walked his canine lots, went for hikes and frolicked along with his spouse and shut associates who, with the traditional chaotic interval of spring classics and coaching camps, he would not have seen for months.
“Simply speaking about life and what I needed,” he mentioned. “But additionally lastly being all for different folks. I’ve had many intervals in my life the place I have been so targeted on my objectives within the biking world that it was all the time troublesome to maintain up pleasant relationships with different folks.
“I had pleasant relationships however it was all the time actually troublesome to be all for what they had been doing. I felt like a traditional individual, it was good.”
Again to regular life 🙂 pic.twitter.com/auwGOUROAY
— Tom Dumoulin (@tom_dumoulin) May 30, 2017
He did not choose up his bike once more till April when he began heading out, leisurely, and by no means doing greater than two hours at a time. He was invited to the Amstel Gold Race as a visitor — one among biking’s one-day spring classics and an enormous occasion within the Netherlands for the Ardennes Classics – a race which is near his coronary heart as a result of as a child rising up in Maastricht, it was the one one he watched come previous his home yearly.
Though Dumoulin was at peace with retiring from biking, going to Amstel Gold as a visitor coincided with him realising he nonetheless had fire-in-the-belly and a ardour for the game. He wasn’t finished.
Months down the road, he was now feeling higher bodily and mentally and his ambitions began to develop. He phoned the nationwide group coach and requested concerning the potentialities of concentrating on Tokyo 2020. By Might, he was chosen for the squad regardless of having not raced competitively, the coach was assured he may pull it off even when Dumoulin himself wasn’t.
Jumbo-Visma had been additionally joyful to welcome one among their key riders again, however he wanted to do issues otherwise this time round with a brand new focus and mindset.
In successful the Giro d’Italia in 2018, Dumoulin had proved himself to be a critical grand tour contender, however when defending his title the next yr he crashed out on stage 4 and was sadly tormented by accidents which in flip scuppered any likelihood within the Tour de France. By 2020 with new signings, he began to play the function of domestique.
“I do not suppose it’s the stress and the aim of going for a grand tour which affected me lots in the previous few years, it was the way in which to it,” he mentioned. “Many instances I felt very burdened about performing and if I can launch that stress a bit, I would nonetheless wish to go for the utmost doable within the greatest races.
“I am wanting ahead to doing extra races this yr however future objectives — I actually do not know truly. That could be a query that I’ll ask myself this winter. Do I nonetheless wish to go for 4 GC’s [general classifications] and grand excursions? I do not know but.”
Boarding his flight to return residence from Tokyo 2020, he lastly has time to replicate on the yr to this point. He says his (second) silver medal has a gold edge to it, since his Jumbo-Visma teammate, Primoz Roglic, who’s undoubtedly the world’s greatest time-trialist, gained gold. Nevertheless, he could not have gained his with out first having a break.
“It was undoubtedly a fast-track practice that I used to be sitting in, going from aim to aim by no means actually wanting again. Now could be the primary time that I am wanting again at my medal from Rio and for the primary time I am pondering ‘however you bought a silver medal within the Olympics — how cool is that.’
“I really feel very lucky that I can do these items and that I am bodily gifted that I can pull this off. I really feel very privileged additionally and I do not suppose I checked out it that means up to now.”
In biking, riders go from race to race each different weekend for round 10 months of the yr typically overseas and in numerous time zones, there may be not often any time to have fun the current outcome earlier than group buses are packed up and the subsequent race is looming on the horizon. Earlier than you recognize it, years have handed by.
“For just a few years I used to be going from biking aim to biking aim and that was just about my life, with out wanting left and proper. That was vital and good typically however this era opened my eyes that I take pleasure in life, and I take pleasure in life round me,” he mentioned.
“I would like a greater stability sooner or later between my biking life and my regular life. It [having a break] undoubtedly gave me a greater view of me on this world and within the biking world.”
Though psychological well being was thrown into the highlight at Tokyo 2020, in his regular humble means, he stresses that he’s not a pioneer — he did what he wanted to do at that time in his life for his personal wellbeing. Although, if he had one piece of recommendation, he would encourage folks to “take a step again and try your life.”