Romain Bardet says leaving DSM riders' comments 'not easy to understand' after 'Soviet regime' remarks

Multiple riders have broken their contracts over the years with an unnamed rider calling it a "Soviet regime"

Romain Bardet
(Image credit: Getty Images)

Romain Bardet has said "I haven’t shared the doubts of the riders who left, so it’s not easy for me to understand" after various riders have broken contracts with Team DSM.

A recent piece by Sporza  was posted hours before the team's 2022 presentation, it included unnamed riders saying the way the team was run was like a "Soviet regime" with another adding they were "treated like little children".

Bardet, however, has flourished at DSM making his Giro d'Italia debut where he finished seventh overall as well as taking a stage at the Vuelta a España and the Vuelta a Burgos. 

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In an interview with CyclingNews, Bardet said that riders breaking contract and leaving has not impacted on morale in the team, thanks to its transparency. 

"It’s always very honest: you know that you have to give the best of yourself, because it’s the least you can do in such a high-level environment. And the team has always thought in terms of what’s best for the whole group.

"Of course, sometimes riders have different ambitions, but no departure has affected the morale of the riders here, because we have confidence in the work of the staff and the experts around the team on a daily basis. 

"It’s not a disruption. It’s honest and courageous on the part of the team to allow someone to follow his own path and leave rather than have a conflict. From my point of view, it hasn’t affected us. I haven’t shared the doubts of the riders who left, so it’s not easy for me to understand."

Over the last few years multiple high-profile riders have broken their contract with the team, with Marcel Kittel, Michael Matthews, Tom Dumoulin, Marc Hirschi, Warren Barguil and most recently Tiesj Benoot all leaving early. 

Former rider Ilan Van Wilder took legal action against the team as he wanted to leave. He has now joined Deceuninck - Quick-Step after breaking his three-year contract with DSM.

Two anonymous riders told Sporza: "Woe to you if you had trained a little bit differently for a day. You immediately got on the phone with an angry staff member and you had to justify yourself.”

"They had a protocol for everything. It was really extreme. And every year new rules were added. Rules that get on riders' nerves.

"We felt that we had to listen to Mr. and Mrs. the teacher all the time. We were treated like little children. If you didn't do something right, you had to stand in the corner, as it were.

"Some riders may need that approach. But especially the older riders do not need many superfluous rules that were then unnecessarily complex."

The team is seeing 10 riders leave at the end of this season with just two retiring in Nicolas Roche and potentially 24-year-old Martin Salmon.

The others leaving are the formally mentioned Benoot and Van Wilder as well as Jai Hindley to Bora-Hansgrohe, Michael Storer to Groupama-FDJ, Jasha Sütterlin to Bahrain Victorious, Max Kanter to Movistar, Felix Gall to Ag2r-Citroën and Chad Haga to Rally Cycling.

John Degenkolb, Jonas Hvideberg, Sam Welsford and Frederick Rodenberg Madsen and a couple of DSM development riders are down to join the team for 2022.

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Tim Bonville-Ginn

Hi, I'm one of Cycling Weekly's content writers for the web team responsible for writing stories on racing, tech, updating evergreen pages as well as the weekly email newsletter. Proud Yorkshireman from the UK's answer to Flanders, Calderdale, go check out the cobbled climbs!

I started watching cycling back in 2010, before all the hype around London 2012 and Bradley Wiggins at the Tour de France. In fact, it was Alberto Contador and Andy Schleck's battle in the fog up the Tourmalet on stage 17 of the Tour de France.

It took me a few more years to get into the journalism side of things, but I had a good idea I wanted to get into cycling journalism by the end of year nine at school and started doing voluntary work soon after. This got me a chance to go to the London Six Days, Tour de Yorkshire and the Tour of Britain to name a few before eventually joining Eurosport's online team while I was at uni, where I studied journalism. Eurosport gave me the opportunity to work at the world championships in Harrogate back in the awful weather.

After various bar jobs, I managed to get my way into Cycling Weekly in late February of 2020 where I mostly write about racing and everything around that as it's what I specialise in but don't be surprised to see my name on other news stories.

When not writing stories for the site, I don't really switch off my cycling side as I watch every race that is televised as well as being a rider myself and a regular user of the game Pro Cycling Manager. Maybe too regular.

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