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2022 team preview: Team DSM men

Romain Bardet and Cees Bol return as team leaders in 2022 as John Degenkolb returns for Classics glory
Romain Bardet and Cees Bol return as team leaders in 2022 as John Degenkolb returns for Classics glory (Image credit: Getty Images Sport)

Who?

  • CEO and Manager: Iwan Spekenbrink
  • Squad size: 28
  • Average age: 24.6

Now in its 18th year in professional cycling, Team DSM developed from a Dutch-based Continental team to reach WorldTour level by 2013. Three years later, the team registration had moved to Germany under Giant-Alpecin. Over those years with different title sponsors, the programme has been one of the best sprint teams on the WorldTour. Between 2011 and 2016 when Marcel Kittel and John Degenkolb were on form, sharing sprint duties in the middle four of those years, the duo scored a staggering 93 individual victories, as well as an abundance of classification titles. 

The metamorphosis continued this past year as DSM took over title sponsorship with the distinctive two-striped blue jerseys after four years as Team Sunweb. However, an abundance of race wins did not follow the new colours, even with the addition of Romain Bardet from AG2R La Mondiale as a team leader.

The team had another round of turnovers in its roster for a second year, especially from aspiring GC hopefuls and young sprinters, and the team seemed to be under fire for its rigid  team rules and protocols. 

However many of the current roster seems happy and expectations are high in the new year for Bardet to hit his stride, a return of Degenkolb to help transform the sprint train and young riders to flourish.

How did they fare in 2021?

Wins: 8

UCI world ranking: 21st – 3887 points

In 2021 Team DSM finished with half the number of wins that it accumulated in 2020, eight versus 16. After a fifth overall ranking as a team on the UCI WorldTour to end the 2020 campaign, Team DSM was the lowest-ranked of all 19 UCI WorldTeams this past year, placing well behind ProTeams Alpecin-Fenix and Arkea-Samsic. By comparison, the DSM Women’s WorldTour squad was much more successful, scoring 18 victories.

The rider and staff departures outnumbered rider victories for the season, with eight riders departing via contract releases, retirement or traditional moves, and Marc Reef left as a coach after 10 years. 

In a recent trend of big departures, 2020 Giro runner-up Jai Hindley headed to Bora-Hansgrohe, while Michael Storer, Tiesj Benoot and Max Kanter went to other WorldTour teams at the end of the year as well. The biggest loss may have been Storer, as the Australian accounted for four of the teams wins, including two stage wins at the Vuelta. 

Bardet, who was twice on the podium at the Tour de France (second in 2016, third in 2017) and mountains classification winner in 2019, missed the Tour for the first time in 10 years as he rode the Giro-Vuelta double. His status at the Tour was never replaced, but Cees Bol had the most success at that Grand Tour with three top 10s.

In for 2022: John Degenkolb (Lotto Soudal), Henri Vandenabeele (neo), Leon Heinschke (neo), Marius Mayrhofer (neo), Frederik Rodenberg Madsen (Uno-X), Jonas Iversby Hvideberg (Uno-X)

Out for 2022: Jai Hindley (Bora-Hansgrohe), Michael Storer (Groupama-FDJ), Tiesj Benoot (Jumbo-Visma), Chad Haga (Human Powered Health), Jasha Sütterlin (Bahrain Victorious), Max Kanter (Movistar), Felix Gall (AG2R Citroën),  Ilan Van Wilder (Quick Step), Martin Salmon (undecided), Nicolas Roche (retired)

Key riders

Vuelta Espana 2021 - 76th Edition - 14th stage Don Benito - Pico Villuercas 165,7 km - 28/08/2021 - Romain Bardet (FRA - Team DSM) - photo Luis Angel Gomez/BettiniPhoto©2021

Romain Bardet won stage 14 of the 2021 Vuelta a España (Image credit: Bettini Photo)

Romain Bardet: The Tour de France veteran had a slow start to open the season, having spent the prior decade at AG2R. However, he revved it up for the second half highlighted by a seventh overall at the Giro d’Italia and his first wins in three years at the Vuelta a Burgos and Vuelta a España. He also noted his time trialling had improved, as he was proud to have finished in the top 20 in the ITTs at the Vuelta. 

“Working with the experts at DSM raised my level and also gave me a lot more mental freshness,” Bardet told Cyclingnews earlier in December. 

His improved confidence will make a difference as he again target two Grand Tours in 2022, one for GC and the other for stages, though the team has not confirmed if the Tour de France will be one of the targets.

John Degenkolb: After two lackluster seasons at Lotto Soudal, the German sprinter opted to end his contract a year early and return to Team DSM, where he restarts on a three-year contract. In the past two seasons he had just one victory, a stage win at the Tour of Luxembourg in 2020. He is a 12-time stage winner in Grand Tours, with his last coming in 2018 at the Tour de France. Turning 33 in January, Degenkolb should revive his powerful engine with the team, where he had huge successes earlier in his career winning Milan-San Remo and Paris-Roubaix in 2015.

Alberto Dainese: The Italian joined the WorldTour at the start of 2020 with then Team Sunweb, immediately winning a stage win at the Herald Sun Tour and piling up five more top-10 finishes in stage races. In 2021, the 23-year-old had significant podiums, but was winless. 

However, he showed good form with a second on a stage at Vuelta a Burgos and six top 10s at the Vuelta, including three podiums. He was also on the podium in a handful of one-day races at the end of the season at Grand Prix d’Isbergues, Classique Paris-Chauny and Giro del Veneto. If he’s not in the lead of the sprint train for Degenkolb, he will be the top gun selected for sprint finishes.

Søren Kragh Andersen: The 27-year-old Dane is a veteran of the DSM programme as he enters his seventh year with the squad. He had two Tour de France stage wins and a GC title in the BinckBank Tour in 2020, but did not have the same flash this year to produce top results except a top 10 at Milan-Sanremo. His time trial skills did land him four top 10s in the race against the clock in one-week stage races. As a stalwart of the team, Kragh Andersen is dependable in stage races, and can never be counted out in one-day Classics.

Mark Donovan: Riding for a third year on the team is the 22-year-old Briton. In his first year with the team he rode to fourth overall on stage 11 of the Vuelta, his first Grand Tour. He followed that in 2021 with ninth place on GC at Tour of Britain and a full three weeks at his first Tour de France. He’s one of the “long term” GC group DSM is grooming for the future, which could be paying dividends in the short term.

Strengths

Vuelta Espana 2021 - 76th Edition - 11th stage Antequera - Valdepenas de Jaen 133,6 km - 25/08/2021 - Alberto Dainese (ITA - Team DSM) - photo Luis Angel Gomez/BettiniPhoto©2021

Alberto Dainese had six top 10s at 2021 Vuelta a España for Team DSM (Image credit: Bettini Photo)

First and foremost is still Bardet. The Frenchman seems eager to ride for stage wins, something Team DSM seems to have given the freedom to do again. He will provide a boost for the full year to contend for GC titles as well.

Of the six new riders recruited for 2022, Degenkolb is the highest profile transfer and will reinvigorate the sprint group. He also strengthens the team’s Classics department alongside Kragh Andersen, Nils Eekhoff, Jasha Sütterlin, and Joris Nieuwenhuis. The sprint options revolve around Bol, but also the up-and-coming Dainese.

There are a number of young riders who have moved from the development team or recently signed, including Jonas Hvideberg, a 22-year-old from Uno-X who won Paris-Tours Espoirs. Among the neo-pros from the DSM Development team are Marius Mayrhofer, who was third at Settimana International Coppi e Bartali; and Henri Vandenabeele, who was third on GC at the Baby Giro. 

The 25-year-old Sam Welsford from Australia is a four-time World Champion from the track in Team Pursuit (2016, 2017, 2019) and Scratch race (2019) and was also the national criterium champion in 2020. He could add a strong card to the sprint train.

Weaknesses

The team is rebuilding with an emphasis on flash of speed in all finishes, as well as for the Classics. A notable absence in the one-day races is the recent departure of Benoot, who had top 10s at signature events Paris-Nice (fifth) and Liège-Bastogne-Liège (seventh).

In the GC department, team directors have talked about developing talent for stage wins and overall titles, as Bardet most likely can’t win every race, especially with an objective to compete in a pair of Grand Tours again. 

The team mentions the words “long term” in their comments about developing GC riders and a sprint train, so results may trend slowly in the upward direction for the near future.

Verdict

After a poor 2021 campaign for the men (the women’s team was a shining star), Team DSM have only an upward trajectory ahead to regain lustre from years as Sunweb and Giant. 

In the short term, the team will need more than Bardet for GC and Degenkolb for sprints. If they develop a unified strategy for its sprint train, that will be a solid step forward.

The team has a solid group of fast men, including up-and-coming riders, who just need race experience together, and a little luck, to return to the winner's circle. 

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Jackie Tyson

Jackie has been involved in professional sports for more than 30 years in news reporting, sports marketing and public relations. She founded Peloton Sports in 1998, a sports marketing and public relations agency, which managed projects for Tour de Georgia, Larry H. Miller Tour of Utah and USA Cycling. She also founded Bike Alpharetta Inc, a Georgia non-profit to promote safe cycling for people of all abilities and ages. Tyson has been recognized for communications excellence with 10 Phoenix Awards, presented by the Georgia Chapter of the Public Relations Society of America. She is proud to have worked in professional baseball for six years - from selling advertising to pulling the tarp - and was recognized by a national media outlet as the first female depicted in a pro baseball card set (Ft. Myers Royals). She has climbed l'Alpe d'Huez three times. Her favorite road rides are around horse farms in north Georgia (USA) and around lavender fields in  Provence (France). Her favorite mountain bike rides are in Park City, Utah (USA).