WAREGEM, Belgium (VN) — You’d be excused for not recognizing the Sunweb rider sandwiched between Belgium classics stars Yves Lampaert and Sep Vanmarcke on the Dwars door Vlaanderen podium.
Dutchman Mike Teunissen showed promise as a youngster, winning U23 Paris-Roubaix in 2014. On Wednesday, his second-place result in miserable conditions out of a stacked WorldTour field indicated he could have the tonic that his ailing Sunweb team needs in the classics.
The 25-year-old told VeloNews after the race he knew he was riding well this spring, but landing a podium is something else entirely.
“For sure, I surprised myself because it was the first time I did the final in these kinds of races,” he said.
It has taken some time for Teunissen to find his legs in elite road races. He signed with LottoNL-Jumbo in 2015 and registered a few notable top 10s during his time there before heading to Sunweb in 2017. The Dwars podium result was a long-awaited confirmation of Teunissen’s promise.
Keeping a level head on a day of treacherous conditions, Teunissen stayed safe in the front of the pack, waiting for the right moment to show himself. That plan worked out just fine.
When the racing heated up some 50 kilometers from the finish, he found himself on the right side of several splits, ultimately slotting into the lead group for the finale. Defending champion Yves Lampaert (Quick-Step Floors) soloed away in the final kilometer to win again. For a brief moment, it looked like Teunissen might follow.
“I knew I was feeling good but I wasn’t completely sure and in the end, I gambled a bit too much and should’ve reacted more,” Teunissen said later in a team press release.
Though he and the others could be criticized for not covering Lampaert’s move, Teunissen kept his cool and won the battle for runner-up honors.
Perhaps it’s to be expected that Teunissen thrived in such conditions — although the 2013 U23 cyclocross champion admitted with a grin that he actually shuns the gloomy Belgian spring weather.
“Everyone thinks I like it, but it’s one of the reasons I quit cyclocross,” he said.
“I was not that big a fan of rain and cold. But I am quite good at it. I can handle the rain and cold quite well and of course, my skills are slightly better than the average rider I would say on cobbles. For sure, it’s a benefit, and I could use them quite well today.”
Now that he’s ridden onto the podium in a WorldTour one-day, Teunissen can look ahead to bigger and better results. With Dwars in the books, all eyes in Belgium turn to Sunday’s Tour of Flanders.
Teunissen has ridden De Ronde twice, finishing both times but not factoring in the finale either time. Dwars will serve as a healthy boost to his spirits, but he is realistic about battling the likes of Peter Sagan (Bora-Hansgrohe) in Belgium’s biggest bike race.
“Flanders for sure is another level, and Roubaix also. It’s one and a half hours longer and also better riders are there,” he said. “It will be different, difficult, but I’ll just try to anticipate, with the guys on the team, to be with the big guns in the front of the race, and maybe also try to be there in the final.
“When you show yourself like you did today you can also have confidence for those races, to show yourself in the final. It’s the next step.”
If he can follow the right moves again in the two major dates with the pavé to come, Teunissen has as good a shot as anyone to make the final selection. That would go a long way toward salvaging Sunweb’s spring season. The Dutch team counts just one win so far in 2018, stage 3 at the Abu Dhabi Tour.
“It’s what I’m hoping for, me and the other guys from the team because we’re actually quite a strong team with also Søren [Kragh Andersen] and [Edward Theuns]. That we can show ourselves in these races, that’s already good. From there on we can do something nice.”
And from there on, fans will likely start to recognize the young man who could be Sunweb’s newest classics challenger.