Former Grand Tour winner Tom Dumoulin is taking an indefinite break from cycling.
The Dutch rider’s shock decision comes just days after his Jumbo-Visma team announced their race programme for the season.
Dumoulin was set to support team-mate Primoz Roglic at this year’s Tour de France after the team dramatically missed out in 2020 to Tadej Pogacar.
“I really need some time to think,” Dumoulin, 30, said.
“For too long I’ve cared about what everyone [else] thinks,” added the rider, who will take unpaid leave from his team. “I’ve found [the pressure] more difficult than expected.”
Dumoulin shot to prominence in cycling when he won the 2017 Giro d’Italia, in which he was famously forced to take a comfort break in a meadow because of stomach problems and still managed to win the pink jersey overall.
“You ask yourself: ‘What do you want? Do you still want to be a cyclist?’ Now I have the feeling that I don’t know anymore what to do.
“[Stopping] feels really good – as if a backpack of 100 kilos has slipped off my shoulders.”
Just days before his announcement, Dumoulin’s high-budget Jumbo-Visma team had revealed who would be leading the squad for the biggest races across the season, with Dumoulin taking more of a supporting role in many of the events.
Dutch squad Jumbo-Visma are the main rivals to Britain’s Ineos Grenadiers, who narrowly lost out to Roglic in last year’s Vuelta a Espana with Richard Carapaz.
Meanwhile, Jumbo-Visma’s young star rider Wout van Aert has signed a contract extension with the team until 2024. The Dutchman won the Milan-San Remo ‘monument’ race last year, along with two stages of the Tour de France.