‘We like to innovate, try new things, think about new possibilities’: How Team Sunweb are lighting up the Tour de France

How are the Dutch team winning despite their unfancied billing?

The strategy behind Team Sunweb’s excellent Tour de France is as simple as it is invigorating to watch: attempt to excite.

Devoid of a major general classification rider following Tom Domoulin’s move to Jumbo-Visma, Sunweb were not among the teams expect to perform well at this year’s delayed Tour.

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But spearheaded by British sports director Matt Winston, they have become the armchair fan’s favourite team, winning two stages from attacking moves.

Marc Hirschi, the little-known Swiss 22-year-old, won stage 12 and two stages later Søren Kragh Andersen made it two victories, the Dane attacking late into stage 14’s finish in Lyon.

The recipe? One you’d find a local pub chef boasting about with apparent ease to concoct, but clearly lacking the skills of his companion at the upmarket harbour restaurant.

“To go old-school and repeat things is not what we want to do. We like to innovate, try new things, think about new possibilities,” Rudi Kemna, team sports director, told Cycling Weekly.

“I’ve had many years in cycling and every time there is new talent. They always ask directly: ‘what should I do?’ I say that they have to show that they can do things. Look at our Tour selection. It’s a young team, it’s fresh, and we are a team who wants to develop riders – that’s our passion. We have a team who want to try.”

Sunweb tactics Tour de France 2020

Sunweb riders celebrate after Søren Kragh Andersen wins stage 14 of the 2020 Tour de France (Photo by FRANCK FAUGERE/POOL/AFP via Getty Images)

Different guises of the same team have won dozens of stages of the Tour, most prolifically during the early- and mid-2010s when Marcel Kittel was at his devastatingly fastest.

Can we compare the eras? “No, because there are different personalities and qualities, but one thing’s the same: we’re always looking at what the possibilities are,” Kemna said.

“I am seeing the same directions as of 2013 and 2014 when we won a lot. There are differences but some things remain the same: we want to be on the offensive.”

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On the stages reserved for sprinters, Sunweb have impressed with their well-drilled lead-out for Cees Bol, the 25-year-old Dutchman who counts just four professional wins to his name but now two spots in the Tour top-three.

Kemna added: “With Cees we have a young sprinter with not too much experience, but one who works hard. I work with him every day so that he has a good sprint.

“We evaluate well and always plan to do things better. It works. I know it does. It worked with Marcel almost 10 years ago.

“Sprints are always different so it becomes a matter of how you adapt to them. You need experience, you need a plan, you need to know how to solve things.

“We talk about everything, we have a passion to do things better, and that is evident in this group, both among riders and coaches.”