‘This is what riders in smaller teams have to endure’ - Willie Smit says big riders often look down on lower tier squads 

The South African pro has explained the attitude towards ProTeams in the peloton 

Willie Smit at the 2020 Vuelta a España (Photo by David Ramos/Getty Images)
(Image credit: Getty Images)

“Quite often I get told to f*** off because I’m not a sprinter,” said Willie Smit, a South African pro riding for the second tier Burgos-BH team.

“Fair enough mate, just write us a book of who is allowed to compete in the finals and who isn’t,” Smit added.

The 28-year-old has shared his thoughts on attitudes towards smaller teams inside the peloton, saying the big name riders often look down on lesser-known pros.

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Smit, a former WorldTour pro with Katusha-Alpecin who is now racing for a Spanish ProTeam, said: “In the Vuelta a España, I had a couple of instances where big riders asked me why the f*** we were sitting here in the peloton - the irony was half his team were dropped, but according to him we are s*** and should go to the back. 

“How is that for arrogance.”

In a series of social media posts, Smit said that some star riders are not good bike handlers and that they grow frustrated when riders from smaller teams are better at positioning themselves in the bunch. 

British pro Alex Dowsett, a former team-mate of Smit’s at Katusha, recently shared a post on his own social media account about how a rider attempting to get into the breakaway shoved him out of the way at the Tour of Turkey. 

Dowsett said that the unnamed rider, who competes for a WorldTour team, also did the same to “one of the most well respected riders in the peloton earlier.”

In response to the rider’s actions, Dowsett said he told the rider he would “make it my personal goal of the day to ensure he would not feature in the breakaway - which I and the other victim to his antics subsequently did.”

The post from Dowsett was met with backlash from cycling fans, some of whom argued that sprint teams bullied lesser-known riders “in a mafioso way.”

Dowsett later deleted the post, saying: "Got the tone of a post last night quite wrong, didn’t explain my story well at all.

"I try to give an insight into the peloton from time to time and I don’t always get it right, what I thought and what came across were quite different. I’ve since taken it down. My apologies."

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Smit shared his thoughts on smaller teams during his time with a WorldTour squad, saying: “Not once did I see myself as more worthy or talented as another bike rider.

“When I raced next to them I respected them as I fought their battles to reach the top for many years in the amateur ranks, with no stepping stones at my disposal except a borrowed bike, a few grand in my bank account, and a random Spanish family that opened their doors for me to live with them.” 

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Alex Ballinger is editor of BikeBiz magazine, the leading publication for the UK cycle industry, and is the former digital news editor for CyclingWeekly.com. After gaining experience in local newsrooms, national newspapers and in digital journalism, Alex found his calling in cycling, first as a reporter, then as news editor responsible for Cycling Weekly's online news output, and now as the editor of BikeBiz. Since pro cycling first captured his heart during the 2010 Tour de France (specifically the Contador-Schleck battle) Alex covered three Tours de France, multiple editions of the Tour of Britain, and the World Championships, while both writing and video presenting for Cycling Weekly. He also specialises in fitness writing, often throwing himself into the deep end to help readers improve their own power numbers.  Away from the desk, Alex can be found racing time trials, riding BMX and mountain bikes, or exploring off-road on his gravel bike. He’s also an avid gamer, and can usually be found buried in an eclectic selection of books.