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Team DSM look to bounce back from 2021 troubles

Team DSM 2022
Team DSM's men's, women's, and development riders for 2022 (Image credit: Team DSM)

Team DSM are out to bounce back from a disappointing 2021 campaign, outlining plans to fight on three fronts - sprints, Classics, and stage races - across both their men’s and women’s squads

Despite earning huge plaudits in 2020 for an inventive and collective approach that yielded three stage wins at the Tour de France and two podium spots at the Giro d’Italia, the men's team fell largely flat in 2021. 

There were three stage wins at the Vuelta a España but the total tally for the season was in single figures, and they finished 21st in the World Ranking, bottom of the WorldTour teams and beneath two second-division teams. 

During a team launch event in the Netherlands on Thursday, the team staff did not hide the fact that they did not meet their expectations but insisted they would be able to do so next term.

"It’s true that 2021 wasn’t the best season, but we had some really good things in there, and we built a good foundation that hopefully we can carry on into 2022," said coach matt Winston. 

"Sport is about resilience. It’s not for everyone. We have a really good way of working and a motivated group behind us that are all keen to get going in 2022."

The team launch saw relatively little change for the new season. They will switch to a Dutch licence with the UCI, having previously been registered in Germany, while Nalini was unveiled as their new kit supplier. As for the riders, the complexion of the men’s and women’s squads is similar to this year, with both presented on stage alongside the men’s development squad.

On the men’s side, there are a number of new young faces but the major arrival is John Degenkolb, who won Paris-Roubaix, Milan-San Remo and stages at the Giro d’Italia and Vuelta a España during his previous spell at the team between 2016. The departures list is more significant, with Ilan Van Wilder and Tiesj Benoot both breaking their contracts to force moves elsewhere in recent weeks, adding to the turbulence of 2021. Michael Storer, the chief breadwinner in 2021 with a breakout season, and Jai Hindley, runner-up at the 2020 Giro, are also gone.

Romain Bardet will again lead the stage racing arm of the team after a solid first season in which he placed top-10 overall in the Giro and won a stage of the Vuelta. He is set to repeat that formula of targeting the general classification in one Grand Tour and stage wins in another, although he didn’t confirm which specific races are on his agenda. Meanwhile, 22-year-old Thymen Arensman is seen as a future GC prospect after an impressive debut season. 

Degenkolb strengthens the team’s Classics department and will lead the line in the spring alongside Soren Kragh Andersen, Nils Eekhoff, Jasha Sutterlin, and Joris Nieuwenhuis. The sprint options revolve around Cees Bol, who won a stage of Paris-Nice this year, but also the up-and-coming Alberto Dainese who had three podium finishes at the Vuelta. Casper Pedersen and Nikias Arndt are among the dedicated lead-out riders.

"Moving into 2022 the men’s program continues their focus on two strong key pillars: developing our sprint train and our GC group on the longer term,” said head coach Rudi Kemna. "We have also added a selection of talents to the sprint train with the aim of developing it to the highest level to go for it in the WorldTour stage races, and we have the team’s selection of promising GC potentials who will also continue to support the more experienced riders in that discipline. 

"Away from those two pillars, the team will race the Classics with varied tactics in the finale, while we will split and approach the three Grand Tours with the following team goals; one for GC ambitions, one for offensive racing and sprints, and one focusing on the development of our GC and sprint talents."

Women's squad

As for the women’s team, they have relatively little to bounce back from after a successful 2021 campaign. Lorena Wiebes proved to be a top signing in her first full season with the team, landing 13 of their 18 wins, including the Ronde Van Drenthe, three stages of the Giro, and two at the Women’s Tour. 

There will be added pressure on Wiebes, and on the Classics department in 2022 after the departure of former Tour of Flanders winner Coryn Labecki (née Rivera). However, that may well be off-set by the arrival of 22-year-old Dutchwoman Charlotte Kool from NXTG, who beat world champion Elisa Balsamo in sprints at the Baloise Ladies Tour and GP d’Isbergues this year.  Julia Soek, Susanne Andersen, Wilma Olausson are also leaving the team, replaced by Elise Uijen, Francesca Barale, and Léa Curinier. 

Elsewhere, Pfeiffer Georgi, the 21-year-old British champion, had a breakthrough season and will take on more of a leadership role next year, while Canadian all-rounder Leah Kirchmann is a dependable source of results across the board. 

"The women’s team already had a fantastic season. There’s a little extra step we can make in women’s programme with our sprints, and we also want to continue to improve in the Classics, with races like Paris-Roubaix. And then the first Tour de France Femmes, where we want to go for stage wins and also GC.

"I think we’re ready for that. We are almost on the absolute top, and this is what we want to reach next year."

Whether it’s in the men’s, women’s or development teams, the message from the team was that, in spite of the lows of 2021 and the spate of riders looking to leave, they would stick to their structured approach of prioritising the collective over the individual, in the hope of recapturing some of that 2020 magic. 

"The riders are split into three groups - sprints, Classics, and GC - but let’s be clear, when we go to a race, we are one team," Kemna said. 

"It’s very important that we work together, that we have GC riders helping in sprints, for example. In October we were together with the whole team and you could feel already that there is something going on, that we want to go for it next year."

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Deputy Editor - Europe. Patrick is an NCTJ-trained journalist who has seven years’ experience covering professional cycling. He has a modern languages degree from Durham University and has been able to put it to some use in what is a multi-lingual sport, with a particular focus on French and Spanish-speaking riders. After joining Cyclingnews as a staff writer on the back of work experience, Patrick became Features Editor in 2018 and oversaw significant growth in the site’s long-form and in-depth output. Since 2021 he has been Deputy Editor - Europe, taking more responsibility for the site’s content as a whole, while still writing and - despite a pandemic-induced hiatus - travelling to races around the world. Away from cycling, Patrick spends most of his time playing or watching other forms of sport - football, tennis, trail running, darts, to name a few, but he draws the line at rugby.