It is one thing to win, but to dominate over years takes planning and focus.
SD Worx – formerly known as Boels-Dolmans – has been one of the most prolific teams in the peloton for the best part of a decade, winning just about every race there is. However, the team is facing a major upheaval within the core of their roster over the next year with world champion Anna van der Breggen and former rainbow jersey wearer Chantal van den Broek-Blaak hanging up their racing wheels.
Will the team be able to continue to dominate without two of their star riders?
Early signs would indicate that the answer is yes.
Van der Breggen will step off the bike at the end of 2021 while van den Broek-Blaak will hold out until the spring of 2022. The duo will stay on to provide their valuable insights as sport directors, but their departures will leave a big gap to fill in the squad.
SD Worx and its various incarnations, at the hand of Danny Stam, has topped the victory standings for four of the last five years and currently lead the way in 2021. Between them, van der Breggen and van den Broek-Blaak have contributed 70 of the team’s 167 wins since 2015 – that’s nearly 42 percent.
Jolien D’hoore, who has notched up 10 wins during her three years with the squad, is also set to retire at the end of the year.
Building the foundations
With a new chapter for the team fast approaching, Stam has been working feverishly behind the scenes to firm up its foundations well into the future.
A four-year sponsorship deal with the HR company SD Worx has given Stam the freedom to do that with the security of funding until at least 2024. Stam was busy over the winter, snapping up a wealth of riders to bolster what was already there.
The signing of Ashleigh Moolman-Pasio and Elena Cecchini added some serious strength on both the flat and hilly terrains. Meanwhile, the addition Anna Shackley and Niamh Fisher-Black – alongside Lonneke Uneken, who was already on the team – gives the team plenty of youthful promise for the years ahead.
Rising star Kata Blanka Vas is also another interesting prospect for the team going forward. The Hungarian, who officially joined the team on June 1, is a promising multi-discipline rider with victories over the winter in cyclo-cross and national titles on the road and in mountain biking.
However, the signing of neo-pro Demi Vollering was the biggest one ahead of the 2021 season. Just two years into her career, Vollering has shown herself as a superstar in the making and is the most obvious immediate successor to world champion van der Breggen as the team’s top rider.
Vollering also has a very fast finish, making her a threat in just about any race that she does. There are few riders in the pack that can push Marianne Vos to the line in a sprint finish and hang with Annemiek van Vleuten on the long climbs.
Further security for the team’s future was announced Wednesday with the signing of another very fast finisher in Lotte Kopecky, who inked a three-year deal with the squad. The Belgian champion is a Giro d’Italia stage winner and was a podium finisher in the 2020 Tour of Flanders.
Today we launched the news that @lottekopecky will join our Team from 2022 onwards for three years. At the HQ of SD Worx in Antwerp, Belgium, she spoke with press who came to speak with her and online via a digital press conference. #teamsdworx #wesparksuccess pic.twitter.com/fCRWeZRRSb
— Team SD Worx (@teamsdworx) June 2, 2021
“Chantal and Anna are retiring, and we want to look to the future, and you also want to stay on the top level. I think with Lotte and Demi we have potential riders that can handle that,” Stam said Wednesday.
Kopecky has suffered a bit of misfortune at some of the biggest this season but has remained a strong force within the peloton. With the strength of SD Worx behind her, Kopecky should climb another rung in the ladder of her career progression to snap up some of the calendar’s biggest races.
The Belgian champion agreed.
“It is the best team in the world and to see how they dominate every classic so far then it’s an honor to be in this team and I think that I can also be a value to this team,” Kopecky said in a press conference announcing her move to the team for 2021.
“When you see how SD Worx dominates the classics and the races, this is just the next step in my career. Together with SD Worx, I think we can do some really nice things.”
A promising future ahead
While there is plenty of new talent to get excited about, there are also some very strong riders that have formed the backbone of the team for some time.
Christine Majerus has been with the team since 2014 and she is not only one of the strongest domestiques in the bunch, but she is a proven winner too. Amy Pieters will also remain with the squad for 2022, providing some firepower in the sprints alongside Kopecky and Vollering.
“It’s really cool about our team that there are a lot of strong girls, and everybody can win and is allowed to win races. I think there are not so many teams with so many winners in one team,” Vollering told VeloNews during an interview in April.
“Because we are so strong, we can of course play a lot of tactics. Also, Danny who is sitting in the car, I think he really knows women’s cycling and that is very important. It’s really nice to have someone in the car that you can really trust and really knows how to win races.”
Stam has been the brains behind much of SD Worx’s success over the last decade and the addition of van der Breggen and van den Broek-Blaak – though a loss on the road – will make the team just as formidable in the car as they are on the road.
With a wealth of experience on and off the bike working in tandem with some very strong recent signings, it doesn’t look like SD Worx is going to step its foot off the gas anytime soon.