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Sunweb basks in 2017 success after last year’s lows

After a bitter 2016 season marred by a terrible training crash, Dutch team Sunweb bounces back with big wins in 2017 season.

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FLORENCE, Italy (VN) — Cooler heads prevail in Team Sunweb. One season after disaster struck, the team stands at the top of the cycling world with its success in the Giro d’Italia and Tour de France.

Tom Dumoulin won the Giro d’Italia overall, and two stages, in May. Michael Matthews and Warren Barguil succeeded in the Tour de France this July. Matthews and Barguil each won two stages. The former claimed the points classification, and Barguil won the king of the mountains title.

“The whole year has been fantastic,” sport director Luke Roberts told VeloNews. “We left the Giro having won there with two stage wins wondering what we could expect at the Tour. We left with such a high from the Giro that the Tour could have been a disappointment.”

Matthews and Barguil each stepped up onto the Champs-Élysées podium with the overall winner Chris Froome (Sky) on Sunday for their green and polka-dot jerseys. The French cheered loudest for home rider Barguil. After being pipped in a photo-finish with Rigoberto Urán (Cannondale-Drapac), he won the Foix stage on Bastille Day and a second one on the famous Col d’Izoard.

Barguil was one of six team riders hit head-on last year while training on Spanish roads. Thankfully everyone survived, but the January incident spoiled the season for Sunweb, then known as Giant-Alpecin.

In 2016, the team won 15 times. That included Dumoulin’s Giro stage win and his two Tour stage wins in the time trial and at Andorra Arcalis. Also, Max Walscheid won five times at Tour of Hainan. This year, midway into 2017, they are already at 16 victories with shinier and bigger trophies in their case.

“The goal was always the classification with Tom [Dumoulin] in the Giro d’Italia and with stage wins in the Tour with Michael [Matthews]. Initially, we wanted to target the classification with Warren [Barguil] but after his accident [hip fracture in May] we weren’t certain. So we take a step back with that and told him, ‘Don’t worry about it and just ride into the race.’ That was good for him mentally and you could see that he was riding without pressure of fighting for the GC,” Roberts said.

“We have a good atmosphere in the team. Even when we missed out on some wins we still kept a good morale rather than being too disappointed and upset. We took the positives out of it. We knew we had the team in the riders to do it but we had to continue being persistent.”

Behind Sky in the grand tour hierarchy, Sunweb has progressed to the second spot for 2017.

“Everything came together and we got in the flow,” said Laurens Ten Dam. He helped the team in the Italian and French grand tours. “It’s been our planning from December with the whole team.

“For example, I knew I was doing the Giro and the Tour. So did Simon Geschke, and we could just focus on that. Other riders here knew that they were going to the Tour already back in December and they could prepare for that and stick with the plan. We could prepare for that seriously and everything worked. It’s the strength of the team, that serious planning.”

The team management will soon plan for the 2018 season. Dumoulin is expected to race the Tour, but Barguil and Matthews will want to return after their successes.

“These are luxury problems,” Roberts continued.

“It does add complications, but we don’t leave it up until two weeks before the race to decide the roster and the tactics. It is something we plan it in October or November of the year before.

“The performance team is already looking forward towards the plan next year, and end of November we all come together and talk about our priorities.”

Dumoulin renewed his contract through 2022. Matthews has one for 2018. Barguil’s contract expires this season and rumors say he could beef up second-division French team Fortuneo-Oscaro.