Homework, punishments and limited massages: Did the strict rules at Team DSM contribute to Hirschi's departure?

Claims of a strict regime at Team DSM are said to have contributed to a number of star riders moving on to pastures new

(Image credit: Getty Images)

Details on the strict regime apparently implemented at Team DSM, formerly Sunweb, have been revealed, with claims that this played a part in the departure of both Michael Matthews and Marc Hirschi.

Hirschi was announced as a shock late signing for UAE Team Emirates yesterday after DSM announced they had terminated the Swiss rider's contract at the start of January. Meanwhile, Matthews left his contract a year early in order to sign with Mitchelton-Scott for the 2021 season.

Belgian newspaper Het Nieuwsblad has now published what they claim are a series of strict rules that riders at Team DSM must adhere to.

Squad members are given homework to do, which includes memorising the details of race profiles as well as fine-tuning tactics. This practice is not enforced at the Tour de France, however, where emphasis is placed on maximum rest and recovery.

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The newspaper claims this played a part in the departure of Matthews, and he is not the only rider who left due to the strict rules riders must follow. Matthews is said to have not completed his 'homework' before the opening weekend of Omloop Het Nieuwsblad and Kuurne-Brussels-Kuurne and was subsequently not selected for the Belgian races. He was later also not selected for the Tour de France, subsequently announcing he was to leave the team at the end of the season.

Another protocol is that riders who want to test out different, non-standard team-issue race tubes during a recon of specific races such as Strade Bianche are not permitted to. The same goes for a rider wanting to organise his own altitude camps.

Glasses must also be kept in their case when not being worn, and tweets disparaging dangerous courses are frowned upon, as is the use of ketones.

Even more bizarrely, riders are said to not be allowed to ask for more than half an hour with the masseur to deal with physical ailments.

Danish outlet Blick says although both Hirschi and his manager Fabian Cancellara have remained silent on the circumstances surrounding the 22-year-old's team change, his new home will allow him to "live more freely" and point to his comments at the end of last season: "I now pretty much know what is good for me and what is not."

Het Nieuwsblad says there is also often restlessness amongst the support staff, who are paid less than their counterparts on other teams, and that once they prove themselves they are almost immediately snatched up by a rival.

Despite these revelations, Sunweb impressed during the 2020 season, recording 16 victories including three stages of the Tour de France and a stage and second overall at the Giro d'Italia.

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Hi. I'm Cycling Weekly's Weekend Editor. I like writing offbeat features and eating too much bread when working out on the road at bike races.

Before joining Cycling Weekly I worked at The Tab and I've also written for Vice, Time Out, and worked freelance for The Telegraph (I know, but I needed the money at the time so let me live).

I also worked for ITV Cycling between 2011-2018 on their Tour de France and Vuelta a España coverage. Sometimes I'd be helping the producers make the programme and other times I'd be getting the lunches. Just in case you were wondering - Phil Liggett and Paul Sherwen had the same ham sandwich every day, it was great.