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Van Wilder hints at early exit from DSM after Vuelta a España spot is 'taken away'

Belgian Ilan Van Wilder of Team DSM at the start of the sixth stage of the 73rd edition of the Criterium du Dauphine cycling race 1675 Km from LoriolsurDrome to Le SappeyenChartreuse France Friday 04 June 2021 BELGA PHOTO DAVID STOCKMAN Photo by DAVID STOCKMANBELGA MAGAFP via Getty Images
Ilan Van Wilder could be heading for an early exit from Team DSM (Image credit: Getty Images Sport)

The relationship between Ilan Van Wilder and Team DSM appears to have deteriorated beyond repair after the young Belgian rider expressed his despair at not being selected for the Vuelta a España

Rumours of tensions had already surfaced in June, when it was reported that Van Wilder was looking to find a way out of his contract and find another team for 2022, which was denied by DSM. 

The 22-year-old has since been omitted from the team's line-up for the Vuelta a España, despite the race being on his programme from the start of the season. In a statement issued on social media on the eve of the race, he made his disappointment clear. 

"Tomorrow was supposed to be my Grand Tour debut but that has been taken away from me... I can't explain how disappointed I am and how down I have been feeling for weeks," he wrote.

"One thing is for sure: I will try to get my pleasure and motivation back of riding a bike and hopefully I can do this from next year in a fresh new environment. I'll be back."

Van Wilder's Grand Tour debut technically came at last year's Vuelta, but he had to abandon on the very first stage due to knee pain. The 2021 race, which kicks off with a time trial in Burgos on Saturday evening, was supposed to be a key phase of development for the rider who has top-five finishes in WorldTour time trials at Tour de Romandie and Critérium du Dauphiné this season. 

However, in an interview with Dutch website Wielerflits earlier this week, Team DSM's head coach Rudi Kemna suggested that Van Wilder hadn't quite aligned himself with the team's way of working.

"Ilan is a talent, a good boy, but he still has major steps to take in the 'cooperation' factor. That is not yet at the level we want and that is a reason not to select him for the Vuelta," Kemna said. 

"He was physically ready, but mutual cooperation is also necessary to allow the team to rise above itself. Both aspects are equally important, for everyone within Team DSM."

Team DSM are known to have a regimented approach in which protocols are closely adhered to and the collective is prioritised over the individual. In recent years, a string of riders have broken their contracts to leave the team, including Marcel Kittel, Tom Dumoulin, Michael Matthews, Warren Barguil, Edward Theuns, and Marc Hirschi.

Kemna acknowledged that Van Wilder could be the latest in that list but voiced his desire to have him in the team next year. 

"We do not intend to let Ilan Van Wilder leave. We want to continue working with him, but his management makes it difficult and that creates extra pressure. 

That is not an advantage for them and certainly not for Ilan. But we are motivated to train him further. He is a talent that needs a little more time because his 'cooperation' is not yet ready. We are working on that."