Team Giant-Alpecin, to be called Team Sunweb-Giant as of 2017, is looking "to become a catalyst to revitalize German cycling – from the bottom to the top – with a long-term vision."” The Sunweb developmental team will debut in January, in a program which will allow the team to "educate their own top riders from a young age and grow them into the WorldTour program."
The team has made an international selection from "best-in-class young riders who are eager to be part of this innovative program." These include Dutch riders Joris Nieuwenhuis, Jarno Mobach, and Nils Eekhoff, Austrian Felix Gall, and French riders Clement Betouigt-Suire and Maxime Gressler. The team rounds off with four Germans: Florian Stork, Max Kanter, Leon Rohde and Martin Salmon.
The number of German riders is no coincidence, as the Continental ranked team will be based in that country. "The development program will be firmly rooted in the German cycling structure, with a team base in Germany and the team is looking forward to a partnership with a German university," said team CEO Iwan Spekenbrink.
The goals are two-fold, to give the young riders the best preparation not only for a professional cycling career, but also for a life outside of cycling. "We'll work with the riders with the clear objective of them becoming the best possible cyclists in a time frame of five years." But, he added, they will "focus equally on the riders' education, since not every talent will ultimately make it into the WorldTour. .... But at the very minimum, we want to offer something relevant to these young men and prepare them for the next chapter in their life, whether it is on or off the bike."
The team has operated under the "Keep Challenging" motto, to encourage team members to continually develop and challenge themselves. It already has a history of signing young riders and bringing them up within their system. Pointing to such riders as Tom Dumoulin, Warren Barguil, Sam Oomen and Soren Kragh Andersen, movement coach Adriaan Helmantel said they have been able to "grow gradually and develop without pressure. They had to train hard but they trained individually with our trainers, and now you can see the results."
German rider Simon Geschke, 30, has been with the team his entire career, and is all too aware of the state of German cycling, which "has had its difficult years, but step-by-step it's moving in the right direction again." The country has world-class riders including John Degenkolb, Andre Greipel and Marcel Kittel, "But to have those kinds of athletes in the future as well, we need to focus on today's youth, and a more structured approach is needed.
"From my own experience in the team, I can say that we have a clear plan to develop riders and work with them together to help them grow and improve their skills. That's the main reason I've stayed in the team fur such a long time. I've learned so much, and now it's time to give back to the younger riders. And learning within the team is not one-way only. If we discuss things like race tactics, all the riders, regardless of their results and their age, can give input and say what is important for them."