Laurens ten Dam says even teams like his with smaller budgets can challenge Team Sky at the Tour de France.
Much has been made about Team Sky’s fiscal advantage. Its budget is three times as large as most of its competitors, allowing Sky to hire the best riders in the peloton to back its GC leaders. Some have even called it “financial doping.”
Two modestly backed teams — Sunweb and LottoNL-Jumbo — took it to Sky this summer with budgets that are at least one half to one-third of Sky’s. For veteran Sunweb climber Laurens ten Dam, the fact that Tom Dumoulin was second overall to Geraint Thomas is a ray of light in the aftermath of another Sky throttling of the Tour de France.
“With some smart thinking, you can be there,” ten Dam told VeloNews editor in chief Fred Dreier. “We were there with [Simon] Geschke and me. LottoNL-Jumbo did a great Tour as well. They were there in numbers, so even with a 12- to 15-million-euro budget, it’s also possible to be there.”
In the aftermath of another Team Sky victory, many are exasperated at the British domination of cycling’s grand tours.
Sky rolled to its sixth Tour victory in seven years with three different winners. Sky has won four straight grand tours and has riders like Colombian sensation Egan Bernal, the youngest rider in this year’s Tour, waiting in the wings.
Everyone is wondering what to do about the team’s dominance. UCI president David Lappartient promised a commission to study ways to make the peloton more competitive, including the unorthodox idea of reducing squads to six riders in a desperate bid to break Sky’s supremacy.
Ten Dam, who broke his clavicle this week in a post-Tour criterium, did express exasperation at Sky’s financial muscle that gives it unparalleled depth.
“The thing is they have several teams to bring. I think only [Wout] Poels did the Giro, so they have the numbers to bring strong teams to each grand tour,” he said. “That’s their budget — Wout Poels makes 10 times more than I do.
“‘G’ [Geraint Thomas] is a surprise to me. He never did a top-10 three-week tour — I even did that — I didn’t expect him to stay that strong until the third week,” said ten Dam, who was ninth in the 2014 Tour. “It’s a big chapeau to the team. It’s a plus to the team to keep him at the same level. They are always at a high level for the third week.”
Ten Dam said there is a sliver of hope for emerging rivals like Dumoulin and LottoNL-Jumbo’s Primoz Roglic and Steven Kruijswijk even if Sunweb’s and LottoNL-Jumbo’s combined budgets barely equal Sky’s.
Next year, Dumoulin and Sunweb are expected to bring a full-on attack to the Tour de France. The 37-year-old ten Dam hopes to be there.
“At the end of a three-week tour, they were on their limit,” he said. “When we put our best guys in there; Sam Oomen and Wilco Kelderman and maybe me in the altitude, maybe we can do even more.”
Ten Dam said the emergence of dominant players in cycling is nothing new to the Tour. He cited Miguel Indurain in the 1990s and the now banned-for-life Lance Armstrong.
“You always have that in sport,” he said. “Still cycling exists, I am not too worried about that. Sky is winning, so if I was them, I wouldn’t change anything.”
It certainly appears Team Sky has no intention of doing that.