The small French stage race Tour de l'Ain will not only be the stage for Tom Dumoulin's Jumbo-Visma debut on Friday and his first race in 420 days, it will also be the first time three weeks before the start of the Tour de France the top trios of Jumbo-Visma and Team INEOS compete against each other.

On June 15, 2019, Team Sunweb released a short statement a few hours before the start of the penultimate stage of the Criterium du Dauphiné: leader Dumoulin stepped out of the French stage race to have a scan of his injured knee made in the Netherlands. "The Tour is not in danger for Tom," assured sports director Aike Visbeek.

There was no participation in the Tour de France. In fact, after the Dauphiné, Dumoulin never played again for Team Sunweb, the team with which he celebrated great successes from 2012.

The Limburger's injury problems started in May 2019, with a crash in the fourth stage of the Giro d'Italia. In the end, he had to have surgery on his left knee twice, which meant the end of his season. In August, a few weeks after his second surgery, Dumoulin announced that he had signed a three-year contract with Jumbo-Visma.

The 2017 Giro winner had a false start with his new team. In February he fell ill with intestinal parasites and had to end his return in the Tour of Valencia. The corona crisis then halted cycling for months.

"The period of more than a year without competitions has been very important to me," Dumoulin said in an interview with NU.nl in June. "I have been looking at professional cycling for eight years. That is good, I have also had many successes with it, but occasionally a period of reflection is also very good. But I am now done with reflect, I want to ride nice races again. "

Preliminary program Tom Dumoulin

  • August 7-9: Tour de l'Ain
  • August 12-16: Critérium du Dauphiné
  • August 17-24: Altitude internship in Tignes
  • August 29-September 20: Tour de France
  • September 21-September 27: World Cup in Switzerland (probably)
  • For the autumn, Dumoulin will make a choice between the Ardennes classics (Amstel Gold Race, Walloon Arrow and Liège-Bastogne-Liège) and the Vuelta a España

Unprecedentedly strong start list in Tour de l'Ain

The Tour de l'Ain is normally a footnote in the cycling season, but this year everything is different. The organizers of the stage race in the east of France will hardly have believed it when one top cyclist after the other could be added to the start list.

With Dumoulin, Egan Bernal, Geraint Thomas, Chris Froome, Primoz Roglic, Fabio Aru and Nairo Quintana, there are no fewer than eight winners of a big round at the start in Montréal-la-Cluse on Friday. And that is not all top climbers, because Bauke Mollema, Sam Oomen, Richie Porte, Dan Martin and the Portuguese top talent João Almeida will also hope for success in the mountain stages.

But the attention of the cycling world will mainly focus on the battle between the power blocks of Jumbo-Visma (Dumoulin, Roglic and Steven Kruijswijk) and Team INEOS (Bernal, Thomas and Froome). It is expected that those teams, with the same three leaders per team, will also be in the postponed Tour.

With his new troika, Jumbo-Visma hopes to end the hegemony of Team INEOS, which has won the Tour no less than seven times in the past eight years. "I think in 2020, for the first time in a long, long time, a team can compete in strength with Team INEOS," said Dumoulin in late December.

The Tour de l'Ain starts on Friday with a hilly stage of 139.5 kilometers. Spicy mountain rides with an uphill finish are on the program on Saturday and Sunday.

See also: Dumoulin: 'I'm done reflecting now'