Racing recap

Team Sunweb spring forward to more success

Early season races

Following on from the team’s various successes in Australia that got the season underway, including a Women’s WorldTour win for Liane Lippert and victories for both Alberto Dainese and Jai Hindley, focus soon switched to Europe and the opening races there.

After some good results at the Tour de La Provence where Wilco Kelderman took second place on stage two and ended the race in fifth place overall, the team’s next win was just around the corner…

Cess Bol’s stage 3 sprint success…

The Team Sunweb train was always to the fore, ensuring that Cees Bol was in a perfect position at all times on the sweeping and sinuous Portuguese roads. Heading under the flamme rouge it was just Casper Pedersen left in front of Bol, with Pedersen doing a perfect job through the final corner to open up the lead out in the home straight. With 200 metres to go Bol jumped out of Pedersen’s wheel, delivering a devastating kick and taking a fantastic sprint victory; a great reward for the teamwork that was on display throughout the stage.

Speaking about his win Bol said: “We really nailed it and I’m happy I could finish it off. We’re focusing more on the sprints this year and the guys were really strong today. I followed my lead out, Casper, and when I saw the sign at 200 metres I just went full gas and I managed to be first at the line.” 

Cees Bol | Team Sunweb | Volta ao Algarve
Cees Bol | Team Sunweb | Volta ao Algarve

A strong Opening Weekend; the Women’s program start it off, with the Men across the line next

Floortje Mackaij showcased her strength as she almost managed to follow eventual race winner Van Vleuten up the famous Muur, before driving the chasing group and sprinting to third place at the finish. It was a good team performance from everyone after making the race, and splitting it in the crosswinds earlier in the day, with young German rider Franziska Koch ably supporting Mackaij deep into the finale.

Speaking of her day in the saddle Mackaij said: “It was an epic race with the bad weather; I really, really liked it. From the beginning I felt that I was really good and the girls were with me all the time through the day, which gave me even more confidence. The team did a great job so I’m happy to get third place.”

The men’s race was also an animated affair with Nils Eekhoff making an early split in the howling wind conditions, before new signing Tiesj Benoot came to the fore as numerous attacks were made in the peloton. Eventually a new group of riders managed to get clear and it was Benoot’s altitude training camp roommate, Søren Kragh Andersen, that forced the move for the team. Following the decisive move on the Muur, Kragh Andersen dug deep and battled to third place on the day as well.

Pleased with where his form was after an altitude training camp Kragh Andersen expressed: “I was gambling for a sprint against them, and hoping they were empty. They attacked and I had nothing left so just tried to come as fast as possible to the finish. I’m really happy to finish on the podium at Omloop Het Nieuwsblad, it is a big race and everyone is in top shape.” 

Floortje Mackaij | Team Sunweb | Omloop Het Nieuwsblad
Floortje Mackaij | Team Sunweb | Omloop Het Nieuwsblad
Søren Kragh Andersen | Team Sunweb | Omloop Het Nieuwsblad
Søren Kragh Andersen | Team Sunweb | Omloop Het Nieuwsblad

The “Race to the Sun” as the sun sets on the cycling season, for now…

In almost Paris-Nice tradition, the winds howled in the opening stages of the race, ensuring some incredibly exciting racing for the fans watching on TV. The team dominated the crosswinds on the opening day, with Tiesj Benoot finishing second after being on the attack from 30 kilometres out, and Cees Bol sprinting to fifth from the group behind.

Stage four saw the peloton take on a tricky time trial, which featured several short climbs and twisting descents; the perfect playground for the team to utilise their Cervélo P5 time trial machines fitted with Shimano disc brakes. Michael Matthews, who started one place ahead of Kragh Andersen on the road, flew around the course to set the fifth provisional fastest time at the line. It didn’t take long for Kragh Andersen to follow in behind him, obliterating the top of the leaderboard and moving into hot seat by a large margin. It was a nervous wait for Kragh Andersen (and the team) as rider-by-rider came through the finish but despite a late challenge from the yellow jersey, no one was able to topple Kragh Andersen’s time, with the Dane taking his first professional TT win.

“To be honest it’s a big relief, I finally got my TT victory so I’m really happy. I almost can’t believe it but I was really aiming for it. I did my best and my legs felt good, so I just went all in. I’ve been working so hard for this over the winter so I’m really happy with the outcome.”

Søren Kragh Andersen | Team Sunweb | Paris-Nice
Søren Kragh Andersen | Team Sunweb | Paris-Nice

With the team on a high, another win was soon on the cards just two stages later where an emphatic team display and incredible tactics saw Benoot take his first victory in the team’s colours. Nikias Arndt was the first to go on the attack for the team with Kragh Andersen soon following suit. Using his TT prowess, he quickly bridged to the German, who then gave it his all with some really strong pulls before Kragh Andersen went solo. After making contact with the remaining breakaway duo, it was on the last climb that Kragh Andersen proved too strong for his companions and hit out to go solo again.

Swiftly following Nibali’s wheel after a stinging attack in the bunch behind, Benoot’s legs felt good and as he saw Nibali waver, he made the decisive move to join up with his teammate Kragh Andersen, with the two Team Sunweb riders going out front leading the stage. Like Arndt did before, Kragh Andersen gave it his all, leading out for Benoot to push on solo for a nail-biting final 12 kilometres of action. Powering all the way to the line, Benoot raised his arms in victory to claim his first win in the team’s colours, and an impressive one at that.

Behind and after climbing with the best, disrupting any organised chase, Matthews showed his sprinting class by easily powering his way to second place, fist-bumping in delight as he rolled over the line, and quickly embracing Benoot at the finish. It was a truly wonderful display of teamwork and tactics, with everyone on the team 100 percent committed towards the one goal.

A jubilant Benoot had this to say at the finish: “I like the days where you have to push all day and it was a day like this. We came into the final in a really good situation. I went on the counter-attack with Nibali and I felt I still had something left so I went full gas to Søren. I’m really happy to get a win for the team.” 

Nikias Arndt | Team Sunweb | Paris-Nice
Søren Kragh Andersen | Team Sunweb | Paris-Nice
Tiesj Benoot | Team Sunweb | Paris-Nice
Tiesj Benoot | Team Sunweb | Paris-Nice
Michael Matthews | Team Sunweb | Paris-Nice

The following day saw the final stage of the race and what would be the final day of action for the foreseeable future. Wanting to go out with a bang, the team rode with the plan of giving Benoot the best chance possible to go for the GC win with 36 seconds to make up. The stage came down to the final climb, with Benoot launching a ferocious attack that was unmatched by his GC contenders just before the one kilometre to go banner. It wasn’t enough to take the GC title in the end but it was that display of guts and determination that epitomised the team’s work and riding at Paris-Nice; a never say die attitude with everyone all in for the team’s goals. Benoot finished the day with second on the stage and on the GC.

A proud Team Sunweb coach Matt Winston said: “The guys did a really good job today, they all committed fully towards our goal of giving Tiesj the best chance of going for the stage and the GC. On the climb Tiesj did well and put in a strong attack in the finale to take second, but unluckily it wasn’t enough for the GC title. It has been a great week for us at Paris-Nice with the two stage wins, two guys inside the top 10 on GC, the points jersey and winning the team classification.” 

Team Sunweb’s head of coaching Rudi Kemna added: “It’s been a great opening to the European races for us with a total of eight wins across our Men’s and Women’s programs so far. The results for both programs in the Opening Weekend showed real class and promise. One of our goals was to achieve a set of good results with our strong block of Classics riders, focusing on developing the riders while following our own way of working and bringing the team closer together. We evaluate and learn from our training camps or races together, and then put that into practice at the following races. Although our early season goals are put on the backbench, the results we have achieved so far this season are something we can be proud of.”

With racing put on pause and with bigger problems to face, we’d like to take this time to wish all of our fans and everyone reading this good health and safety over the coming period. We’ll see you all on the road sometime soon and be back with another racing recap!