How the hell… are Team Sunweb having such a stealthy shocker?

Team Sunweb project an image of calm success but this season’s results suggest things aren’t so good under the positive veneer. How the hell are Team Sunweb having such a stealthy shocker of a season? 

In cycling, a lot goes on under the radar. Races drift off the calendar and previously little-known stage racers sneak into high GC placings (Pello Bilbao, take a bow!). Sometimes one-time villains become fan darlings (hola, Alejandro).

And, this season, very much by stealth, Team Sunweb are having an absolute shocker.

“Wait a minute”, I hear you say. “Tom Dumoulin has come second at both Grand Tours so far. Sunweb belong with the elite teams! They don’t look out of place next to Movistar, Sky and Quick-Step.

Ah, but looks can be deceiving. Let’s zone in on actual facts – no matter which way you slice it, Team Sunweb have had a bad season…

Team identity

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At the time of writing, in the 2018 season, Quick-Step have won 55 races, Sunweb just 7. Only three of those have been road stages and two of them have been Tom Dumoulin’s time trial wins at the Giro and Tour. The only teams to have won fewer races are Dimension Data, EF All the Words and Katusha. At this point last season, Sunweb had almost three times as many victories. 

It would be churlish to ignore Dumoulin’s achievements this year. He’s ridden with grit and determination to get the very best results he can – and twoconsecutive GT podiums is something to be proud of. But what might he have done if he’d had some innovative team tactics? When did you last see him being protected by a black-and-white-striped platoon when it really mattered?

Apart from Dumoulin, it’s not easy to define Team Sunweb’s assets. Think back to your highlights of the year so far. How many involve Sunweb? Sam Oomen’s breakthrough performance at the Giro and Soren Kragh Andersen have both given it a shake a couple of times but apart from those examples, I’ve got nothing. 

Where is their Matej Mohoric? Who is their version of Primoz Roglic? Do they have an Egan Bernal up their sleeves? This season, we’ve just not seen Sunweb riders ignite the action like those riders did.

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For me, this speaks volumes about the team’s identity. They’re not ones for getting riders in the break, they don’t have riders who launch attack after attack and they don’t have multiple ways of winning, a la Quick-Step.

Beyond Dumoulin, I can’t remember a single race where a Sunweb rider was red-hot favourite for the win. And I can’t remember one occasion where Team Sunweb overturned that view with a barnstorming performance that had us on the edge of our seats.

And that’s why they’ve achieved their poor results under the radar. We don’t have any great expectations of them. Sunweb haven’t overwhelmed and they haven’t underwhelmed … they’ve merely whelmed.

Header image: ©GETTY/Velo/Chris Graythen

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