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Q&A: Why Boels-Dolmans boss Danny Stam likes American riders

Boels-Dolmans manager Danny Stam says American riders have a " fighting spirit" that helps them thrive in the European peloton

The UCI Women’s WorldTour is more unpredictable and balanced than ever, with six different riders having won races after nine rounds. The competitive balance has come at the detriment of Dutch super team Boels-Dolmans, which in years past dominated the spring races with Anna van der Breggen, Lizzie Deignan, and Chantal Blaak. This changing dynamic is welcomed by Boels’s longtime manager Danny Stam, who recently told VeloNews that a more even women’s WorldTour is good for the sport.

We recently caught up with Stam to discuss this power shift in women’s road racing, and to understand why Stam often hires American riders to his Dutch team.

VeloNews: Boels-Dolmans has always had American riders on the roster. Why do you seek out American riders?

Danny Stam: It started with Specialized, but I also agree that with Megan [Guarnier], I saw her working for Marianne Vos and I was thinking that girl has the spirit. She can bring that spirit to the team, and she can help us get where we want. I think American people are always very blessed with that fighting spirit, and always very happy. They are ready to go. And I’ve had a few Americans on the team. Megan and Evelyn [Stevens] and Skylar [Schneider] and now Katie [Hall] are always coming to Europe with a goal. They also have a little bit extra because they really want it. If you make the step from Europe to America to chase the dream, it’s a big step.

VN: What qualities made Katie Hall a good hire for your team?

DS: When she dropped Anna [van der Breggen] at the [2017] Tour of California, I was thinking this is a rider who can help us grow to a higher level. Megan and Lizzie were out of the team, and we had a gap for climbers and I was thinking it would be a good challenge with Katie. It’s hard to say how far [Hall can go]. We know she has talent and can put riders like Anna van der Breggen to the limit. If you can do that, you have a really high potential. I hope she can develop and be good enough that we see her in the Giro and those kinds of races. It’s not easy.

VN: In years past Boels-Dolmans has dominated the spring races. That’s not the case this year. What has changed?

DS: The racing is harder. There are more bigger teams coming in. Trek-Segafredo is coming with a new team, and they also have good riders. And there are good riders spread out, and that makes the level higher. I think it is only good that not only Boels-Dolmans dominates the races. Sometimes in cycling we need to have a platform that everybody finds interesting, and in the last four or five races we have had pretty interesting races with winners you didn’t expect.

VN: Has this changing in dynamic impacted the mood around your team?

DS: No, this year is good. We still have raced pretty good and OK, at some races we have not been on the podium, but we still won Het Nieuwsblad and Le Samyn. I think we were very dominant at [Ronde van] Drenthe. I don’t see with the team that anything is wrong.

VN: Anna van der Breggen skipped the early road races this year to race the Cape Epic mountain bike race. How did this come together on your end?

DS: I had a request from Specialized about it, and I was thinking it’s pretty good for her to do something different to keep her fresh for the other races. I think if you get a challenge like the Cape Epic, then yeah, you should be allowed to do it. Every cyclist has it on the bucket list.

VN: Did Anna’s absence shift the team’s focus for those early Women’s WorldTour events?

DS: No, last year she was not at [Ronde van] Drenthe or [Trofeo Alfredo] Binda or Het Nieuwsblad, so it wasn’t that big of a deal. The people from outside make it more difficult because it’s like you won’t win as many races. But I’m pretty happy with it. I know what Anna can do and what she can’t. If you want to keep people motivated you need to give them the space to stay motivated. And I think the result is there if you see what she’s wearing right now.

VN: Where do you see room for the biggest improvement in women’s cycling?

DS: I think it’s pretty important that we get more riders that can do a professional job and make the sport bigger. I think the entire organization is growing, and we have more races. We have spring races and cobblestone races and we have climbing riders for the Ardennes. It feels like you can live from race to race without training. But we still don’t have enough riders to do them all. All of the women teams have 12 riders, and some of them are a little bigger and some are a little smaller. Women’s teams aren’t that big, so I think we need to slowly come into this growth situation. I think that is the biggest problem that we have right now. We get too many nice races and too [few] riders. That is something we have to develop now, the youth in cycling. Because all of the riders dictating the races now are older riders.