Glorious return to cyclocross for Van Empel
Fem van Empel has marked her return to the field with a victory. The 21-year-old...
In the shadow of Team Jumbo-Visma's WorldTour squad, the Dutch outfit's U23 team enjoyed a successful 2023. The team, which focuses on developing and preparing talent, recorded 10 UCI victories last year and saw talent successfully compete at and progress to the highest level. Some of the key players talk about their experiences.
Development Manager Robbert de Groot has been involved with the Team Jumbo-Visma talent programme for some time. "The main goal of our Development Team is to train cycling talent so that they are eventually ready to step up to the highest level", De Groot says. "No less than six guys have gone on to the pros, including three to our WorldTour team. That is something we can and should be very proud of."
Loe van Belle, Per Strand Hagenes and Johannes Staune-Mittet will be part of Team Jumbo-Visma's WorldTour squad next year. All three feel ready for the real thing. "Racing with the WorldTour riders has helped me a lot in my development", Strand Hagenes says. Van Belle: "After our excellent training over the past few years, we are ready for the next step."
"We insist on a good team spirit from day one"
Getting good results is not the primary goal of the Development Team, but developing the riders. However, sports director Robert Wagner is also proud of his men's results. "Last year, we showed our best side. From the first to the last race, we were fighting for prizes. A reward for all the hard work."
There was no shortage of highlights last season. Sierk Jan de Haan, also sports director of the Development Team, has a favourite. "Johannes' final victory in the Baby Giro stands out. But we should not forget Menno Huising's victory in the Flechè Ardennaise. De Groot and Wagner have another point to make. "The total of four wins by Per and Johannes at the highest level is the reward for our hard work", says De Groot, referring to Hagenes' victories in the Tour of Drenthe, 4 Jours de Dunkerque and the Munsterland Giro, and Staune-Mittet's in the Czech Tour. "It not only makes us proud, it also confirms that we are all doing well together."
"Last year, we showed our best side"
Van Belle did not win a race last year, but that is not the primary goal of riding with the Development Team. "I was able to ride with the big guys at the beginning of the season. I was able to help Jonas Vingegaard on his way to the overall win in O Gran Camiño. It was very cool to be a part of that. Next year, it could be the most normal thing in the world. The experience of recent years will ensure that the step up will be as smooth as possible.”
The Jumbo-Visma Development Team took part in the Giro Nextgen this year for the first time in the team's history. It was won by Staune-Mittet. "In terms of sport, it was my highlight of the year", the Norwegian says. "I experienced eight fantastic stages. Everything fell into place. My victory with the pros in the Czech Tour will also stay with me for a long time. These are achievements and races that have prepared me for the step up to the highest level. I won't forget my time with the U23s."
Everyone involved praised the team spirit last year. "We were a close-knit team", Hagenes says. De Groot has a nice anecdote. "In the last part of the season Johannes was struggling with an injury. As it would normally be his last race as an U23 rider, he wanted to race the Coppa Citta' Di San Daniele. Then, he took the initiative to come to Italy with us."
"For me, too, it is a moment that will stay with me", Wagner says. "Johannes almost begged to come to Italy with us, even if only in the role of soigneur. He provided the boys with water bottles and looked after them after the finish. That shows a good spirit."
"We've had ten UCI wins, but I think the best thing about this team is that you can see the guys improving as the year goes on", De Haan says. "It is extraordinary to see that up close. We have had a lot of great moments. Not only in the performances but especially in working together in the race and on the road."
"We have had a lot of great moments"
De Groot: "Team Jumbo-Visma has the motto 'winning together'. It is also one of the main pillars of the Development Team. The WorldTour team has made cycling a real team sport in recent years. The guys in our team know that they cannot do it alone. They know they need each other to be the best they can be. We insist on a good team spirit from day one. That encourages performance. Together we are stronger than alone. Every rider has his own development, and it is important not to skip any steps. There is no right or wrong, but each rider is prepared for the big job in his own way. I dare say that we have all done well over the last few years", the Development Coordinator says.
The last word belongs to the trio, who will soon be moving on to the WorldTour. "I enjoyed my time on the Development Team. I learned a lot and was part of a group of riders who were not only colleagues but also there for each other off the bike", Staune-Mittet says. Strand Hagenes: "We won together, but we were also there for each other when things got tough. Van Belle: "We are now ready to step up to the highest level, where we hope to turn the lessons of the past few years into great results.”