Boels-Dolmans emerges as the team to beat

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Red and orange. It’s the color that’s been dominating the women’s races and podiums since the start of the season as the Boels-Dolmans squad is emerging as the team to beat this year. The Dutch-registered squad has already secured six wins this spring.

Ellen van Dijk won stage two of Ladies Tour of Qatar and moved into the race lead, only to lose the yellow jersey to teammate Lizzie Armitstead who won stages three and four. Chantal Blaak took a sprint win in Le Samyn. A few days later, Megan Guarnier rode her way into the history books when she won the inaugural women’s Strade Bianche. The only race they started in which they didn’t reach the top step of the podium was Omloop Het Nieuwsblad, and even there, they put two riders on the podium with van Dijk in second and Armitstead in third. There’s no sign that they’re slowing down.

It shouldn’t be a surprise, really. With a roster of international powerhouses, they are arguably the strongest team on paper. What’s remarkable is how team manager Danny Stam assembled this team: patiently and quietly.

Danny Stam with riders Christine Majerus and Ellen van Dijk
Danny Stam with riders Christine Majerus and Ellen van Dijk. Majerus sports the Luxembourgian national road champion jersey while van Dijk wears the Ladies Tour of Qatar race leader’s jersey

“Danny has a vision, and he has slowly been building it. He has a great ability to judge character on- and off-the-bike. And he has built something above and beyond what everyone expected,” said Guarnier.

A former track cyclist, Stam transitioned into management in 2011 as part of Leontien.nl. He joined Boels-Dolman in 2013 alongside Armitstead.

Time trial specialist Ellen van Dijk moved across to Boels-Dolmans from Specialized-lululemon the following season to serve in a leading role alongside Armitstead. The following season was a break-out year for the Boels-Dolman team as they won the 2014 World Cup title and finished third in the UCI ranking.

Leading up to the 2015 season, Boels-Dolmans added even more international talent, signing Blaak and American Evelyn Stevens from Specialized-lululemon and multiple junior world champion Amalie Dideriksen from Denmark.

While the team was built around van Dijk and Armistaed,  the early spring races have shown that Boels-Dolmans has a depth of talent and many hands to play.

Chantal Blaak wins Le Samyn. It was the third win for Boels-Dolmans.
Chantal Blaak wins Le Samyn. Blaak’s victory was the third win of the year for Boels-Dolmans.

“It’s been a great start that exceeds even our own expectations,” Stam. “You always hope to come out of the winter with progress but with this, we are of course very happy.”

For the team to be successful and work well together, Stam looks at the values of the riders he brings on board as much as he observes their strengths.

“I try to observe [new recruits] for a while, on and off the bike, to see if they’d be a good fit for our group. I also consult with a few riders on the team,” Stam explained, adding that the team is centred around appreciation and respect, which they carry out toward each other.

And with the Rio Olympics as their long-term trajectory, most Boels-Dolmans riders and sponsors are on multi-year contract, which gives the team stability, said Stam.

“Stability, in particular, plays a major role in this team,” said Stam. “The riders, of course, play the biggest role in that but we also have wonderful sponsors with Boels-Dolmans and Specialized that have signed on for a longer period.”

While medals in Rio is the long-term vision, the team focus will be on World Cup races along the way as well as the team time trial at the World Championship, a discipline that van Dijk and Stevens have had great success in as part of the former Specialized-Lululemon team.

In the meantime, Stam said they’re hoping to keep the winning streak alive: “Though that, of course, won’t be easy”

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