Translated from Marijn’s blog & Photos of Tom courtesy of Wikipedia
January 25, 2021
It has snowed. A thick package covers South Limburg. In a village at the foot of the Sint Pietersberg, Tom Dumoulin takes his mountain bike. He buckles his helmet and puts on his cycling glasses on his nose tanned by the Spanish sun. He just got home. Hasn’t slept a long night, but the snow is calling. The air is crackling. He crosses the Maas. He drives in the direction of Sint Geertruid, but before he reaches the village, he turns into the Savelsbos.
The snow sticks to the branches. Nobody’s been here yet. It is very quiet. He rides a hundred kilos lighter than his last ride like a feather over flakes that have not yet been cycled. He thinks about the first few kilometers, from home to here, with quite a few people already on their feet despite the early Sunday morning. Everyone wants to enjoy the snow. Used as he is to greetings, shouting, pointing: “Hey, there is Tom Dumoulin” – that’s how he enjoyed nothing at all without a yellow-black outfit. No turning heads. No fingers in a big arc after him.
That’s how Tom, the non-cyclist, cycled yesterday morning, I imagine. The enormous relief still exists. Open the future. He doesn’t have to. Not from his trainer. Not from the squad. Not by itself. He can do anything, he thinks, when he cycles up Wolfsberg. White tufts breathe clouds straight up. He is too sensitive, they say. He thinks too much. He wants to do it well for everyone, he says. For his squad. For his trainer. For his parents. For his wife. For all of us, one by one, all seventeen million. And that is not possible. Because what you do well for one person does not mean doing good for another. He lost himself. He pauses for a moment, looking out over the land towards the Voer region. Takes a deeper breath than he did in years
Shiny in your skin
I learned from Marianne Vos, she was only 21 at the time, that as a cyclist sometimes more than once in your career you have to consciously choose whether this is what you really want. That you don’t cycle out of habit. Because you have talent. Because others expect it from you. You can’t keep that up. You have to want it intensely yourself. From your toes. Many cyclists, she said, continue cycling because they don’t know any better, and then burn up very slowly.
How logical is that: sticking to your certainties? What you can do well. What you earn your money with. Most people don’t know any better, because letting go of everything is much scarier than going on without real happiness. But top sport does not lie: you will never again perform convincingly without shiny skin.
Plowing up from Slenaken, through the deep snow, Tom already feels that he has lost himself less. By finally choosing for themselves. Elite athletes, they say, are selfish. Tom was not. Until now, until this moment. By choosing to be a professional cyclist for a while, he shows that the top athlete is really in him.
Marianne said that hardly anyone mentions her name without Vos. Even her neighbors say, Marianne Vos. For a long time, she did not know exactly who Marianne was until she was seriously injured. She did not choose it herself, like Tom, but was forced to look for herself as well. She discovered who Marianne was without Vos and a bicycle and that made her a richer person.
I wish the cyclist the same in the snow. First, just get Tom. We will see what you do with Dumoulin afterwards, yours in sport, Marijn De Vries
Journalist and former professional cyclist Marijn de Vries cycles you through the sports weekend every Monday on https://www.trouw.nl/columns/Marijn-de-Vries