Meet Max Poole, DSM's 19-year old from Scunthorpe who got into cycling through window cleaning

The Briton helped Romain Bardet to victory in his first race, the Tour of the Alps

Max Poole
(Image credit: Cor Vos)

How was your first day at work? Did it take you some time to work out the coffee machine, or find out where the toilets were? It may or may not have been scary, but it probably took some time to ease in, right?

For Max Poole, his first day was a little different. It took the shape of a 161km stage from Cles to Primiero, stage one of the Tour of the Alps. Just the 3693 metres of climbing to deal with on his first day ever with the senior DSM team - having seemingly skipped straight from the junior ranks.

The 19-year-old was part of the squad looking after his team's general classification hope that week, Romain Bardet. Frenchman Bardet would go on to win overall at the end of the race. Quite the opening experience for the man from Scunthorpe (Lincolnshire, UK).

Speaking to Cycling Weekly ahead of stage three of that race in the Tyrolean town of Lana, Poole said that racing alongside Bardet was a bit weird.

"I'm starting to get used to it a bit now," he explained "But it's just really good being around him. He's had so much experience in big races, Grand Tours, winning, he has so much good advice for us youngsters."

Poole is actually in his first year with DSM's development team, he has only been at under-23 level for a few months, after making the jump from the junior ranks. However, reasonably unusually, the majority of his racing this season has been with the senior squad, as he rode the Tour of the Alps and then most of the 4 Jours de Dunkerque.

This baptism of fire hasn't overawed the promising rider from Lincolnshire, at all, in fact he has looked relatively comfortable. He might not have pulled up too many trees results wise, but his team are happy with where he is at, and he has caught the eye as a young man in his opening season.

"It's good," Poole said. "I think you learn a lot from just being in the peloton and from a top coach like Matt [Winston]. We've got some experienced guys here as well so it's just about being around and learning from them."

Whether the compliment to Winston was prompted by the coach being a metre away from Poole at the time, we can neither confirm nor deny.

Asked what elements of his experience with DSM's senior team had taught him the most, Poole highlighted the opportunity to ride shoulder to shoulder with his idols: "Just riding in the in the peloton... you can get so much experience," he said, adding it was his "first race of the year in general" - perhaps forgetting that he raced a stage of Le Triptyque des Monts et Châteaux.

"It's gonna take me time," Poole continued. "You can tell a big difference in the way it's raced, just from junior racing. I haven't really raced under-23 yet so it's a big difference. There are times where it just completely goes out and there's times where it's just full gas."

Max Poole

(Image credit: Cor Vos)

Integrating the development squad in with the senior equivalent is a major part of DSM's ethos, and they're happy with how Poole has slotted into the ranks. 

"I think he's done a really good job," Winston tells Cycling Weekly. "The first few races he missed due to illness, but we didn't see a reason to change his programme, he's a super talented guy and we thought this would be a really good start for him here in the Alps.

"First real race, and he's with our GC guys and he's giving them really good support through the race," Winston observes. 

I'm up for a fight, I'm not just going to give up

Max Poole

"It was on my race programme from the start," Poole said. "I've had some problems with illness and injury. But I'm here now and I was happy to be here as well. I was looking forward to it and I'm up for a fight, I'm not just going to give up."

The 19-year old Briton is following in the wheel tracks of many other talents that DSM, and its former guises including Sunweb and Giant-Alpecin, have produced. Tom Dumoulin, Marcel Kittel and Warren Barguil are just a few of the success stories.

However, DSM has attracted attention for the number of riders who seemingly leave the team, including the three already mentioned. Earlier in the year, rumours of punishments and overzealous rule-making surfaced.

Perhaps this is just part of the deal with being a smaller-budget team in the WorldTour, or perhaps it is something to do with their training and planning methods. 

Another young British talent, Leo Hayter, left DSM's development team early at the end of last year. This week, Thymen Arensman was reported to be the latest talent to be leaving the squad, according to VeloNews.

"I think there's always two sides to the story," Poole says."I've had no issues at all. I can't really see why anyone would have an issue, but it's tough."

Winston defended the team's methods earlier this year in an interview with Cycling Weekly: “The guys in the team are having a good time, moving forward. They don’t say it’s too strict. They understand the way of working and how we go together. 

"We have a way of working, a protocol in place, and it’s to the aid of everyone," he said.

Max Poole

(Image credit: Cor Vos)

Perhaps most interesting is Poole's unconventional route into cycling: the young rider was encouraged by someone his dad met while working as a window cleaner. Not quite what George Formby sang about.

"My dad was a window cleaner," Poole explained. "He just cleaned some windows for someone who went weekly to Quibell Park [stadium and velodrome] in Scunthorpe, so I went to give it go, and did a bit of football as well. When it came to the point I was having to choose, cycling was the one. 

"I played in midfield, or sometimes on the right," he said, although laughed off the suggestion he was like David Beckham.

Playing football helped him identify some talent on a cardiovascular level, obviously. 

"I was quite good at cross country," Poole said. "I mean, the pure runners I could never keep up with, but I had a decent engine. I think I've always had a good engine. Even when I was really little I'd just ride around the village on like a little tractor thing."

DSM is just the latest step in Poole's development, he spent his junior years at Fensham Howes-MAS, as well as working with British Cycling. However, this last race experience represents a big step up, and the first-day syndrome is evident.

"It's little things, like the first time he's used a radio on stage one, and kind of just getting into the swing of things," Winston explained. "He's done it in a really good way and he's really settled in and he's speaking in the meetings and I think he's enjoying it. 

"I spoke to him at the end of [stage two] and he said, it was so much better than stage one, because the first day you're using a radio it's going on in your ear and everything else is going on. But yesterday was already much better. His level will just keep continuing to grow from this."

The only way is up: watch out for the man from Scunthorpe.

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Adam Becket
Senior news and features writer

Adam is Cycling Weekly’s senior news and feature writer – his greatest love is road racing but as long as he is cycling on tarmac, he's happy. Before joining Cycling Weekly he spent two years writing for Procycling, where he interviewed riders and wrote about racing, speaking to people as varied as Demi Vollering to Philippe Gilbert. Before cycling took over his professional life, he covered ecclesiastical matters at the world’s largest Anglican newspaper and politics at Business Insider. Don't ask how that is related to cycling.