Dylan Teuns heads into the new year off the back of one of his best years as a pro yet. The Belgian claimed the biggest win of his career at the 2019 Tour de France, winning stage 6 atop La Planche des Belles Filles in the Vosges.
The victory came sandwiched between two other major successes, namely a stage win and two days in yellow at the Criterium du Dauphiné, and a day in the race lead at the Vuelta a España, where he ended up 12th overall.
It was a year to savour for the Bahrain McLaren man then, and something to build on for the future, too.
"I had two really good years already," Teuns told Cyclingnews at Bahran McLaren's mid-December training camp in Hvar, Croatia. "They were 2017 and 2019, though I think 2019 is a bit better because I won a stage at the biggest Grand Tour and one of the biggest one-week races.
"The red jersey at the Vuelta was a goal too, after the Tour. Unfortunately, I couldn't achieve the stage win there, but I did a good general classification, so that gives me something to work on for later in my career.
"I wasn't targeting top 15 in a Grand Tour. I wasn't expecting that, and I surprised myself a bit. It's good for the future. Maybe one year I can try to reach as high as possible in a Grand Tour. It won't be next year, but maybe later."
Teuns came to the professional ranks with a reputation as a potential Classics specialist, having won Omloop Het Nieuwsblad juniors, finishing fifth and second at Liège-Bastogne-Liège Espoirs, and second at Piccolo Il Lombardia.
Since turning pro, though, his greatest successes have come in stage races. As well as his 2019 achievements, in 2017 he won the Arctic Race of Norway, Tour de Wallonie and Tour de Pologne. There have also been top-three placings at Il Lombardia and La Flèche Wallonne.
However, fifth place at the 2019 Omloop Het Nieuwsblad, a relatively rare outing at a cobbled race having largely focussed on the Ardennes through his career thus far, has provoked a further interest in the cobbles for 2020.
"The Ardennes is a major goal, and I'll also do some Flanders Classics as well," he said.
"I did fifth in Omloop Het Nieuwsblad, so that gives a nice little taste, and I want to try for more. I will do three – Omloop, E3 Harelbeke and the Tour of Flanders."
A revamped team
Teuns will enjoy the company of an arguably stronger team this year, with Bahrain-Merida undergoing a revamp for 2020 as they rebrand to Bahrain-McLaren. It's the start of Rod Ellingworth's first full season at the helm, while Mark Cavendish, Mikel Landa and Wout Poels are the big names coming on board over the off-season.
It's expected that both Poels and Teuns will be set free to stage hunt at the biggest races of the year, with Poels already confirming his free role in an interview with Cyclingnews. Teuns is excited about the new additions, and happy to see his team strengthened.
"I think that it's great to have this infusion of new riders. We knew what was happening around June and July, but you still didn't know what to expect. Since the end of October to now, I've been happy with the changes and everything that is going on, so that's good.
"I think that it's important for the team to get a bit stronger, and I think we've done some good transfers. I didn't know the new riders very well, so I'm doing that now. It's a good group of professional riders and people though, so it's a good atmosphere."
Teuns, who turns 28 in March, said that he's still growing as a rider as he heads into his sixth season as a pro. And, along with his various Classics and Grand Tour goals, there's another one coming up next year, depending on selection – the climber's course at the Tokyo Olympic Games.
"I'm still developing, a few more years I think," he said. "I'm growing to among the strongest of my age, but in my opinion, I can still make some progress in the next years.
"It's the year for me to go to the Olympics, because in future it could be flat, and there's only an opportunity now. There are five riders for Belgium, but it's really difficult to get in because we already have two time trial spots, and then Greg Van Avermaet is defending champion, so he will be in too. So, that's only two spots for five to seven riders.
"I am interested, but I think that they need to make the decision based on the results and on the shape of the riders."