From the inception of our Women’s program in 2011 as a UCI team, to where we are at now as one of the founding Women’s WorldTour teams, Team DSM have been forerunners in the ever-growing and exciting world of professional Women’s cycling. We chat to head coach Rudi Kemna, coach Albert Timmer, rider Leah Kirchmann and trainer Camiel Dénis about the progression of the sport, how we continue to develop as a team, and where we are at as we head into the next part of the season.
Why have a Women’s program?
Alongside the running of the Men’s program, the team set up a Women’s program in 2011 that has since gone on to grow and develop year-on-year taking a total of 116 wins at the time of publication. In a period where the prevalence of women’s cycling in the wider public was much lower and the number of teams in general could be counted using just a few pairs of hands, we asked the question to head coach Rudi Kemna [RK] as to why we wanted to start a Women’s program.
As mentioned that logical way of approaching things has seen the women’s program take 116 wins, with a first focus on classics and sprints but there has been a more recent focus in the years gone by on GC classifications too.
Every rider has the access to the same experts, no matter which program they are in, and that gives them the chance to tap into the knowledge that’s within the team as everyone aims to get better. Furthermore, the Aqua-Step Keep Challenging Center is used as a base of activities for the Women’s and Development program – but more on that later!
Finally, we asked Rudi what his highlight moment of the Women’s program would be so far…
A home away from home
In 2019 the team officially opened its doors at the Aqua-Step Keep Challenging Center, a project and dream that had been many years in the making and something that takes our Women’s program to the next level. The Center combines a living environment with a high-end support network to help optimise athlete development while helping them to have their independent living space – giving the riders room to grow as people too alongside each other. The Center is a home and base to the majority of the Women’s program during the season when racing in Europe, so who best to ask about the facilities than rider Leah Kirchmann [LK] and Women’s program coach Albert Timmer [AT].
Not only a great place to based for training, the Center is also conveniently located close to airports and only a few hours drive away from many of the spring classics that the team take part in. Alongside its more obvious performance benefits such as the good training roads, access to experts and the gym; there is also a more hidden and subtle benefit that the riders get from being there and that is just simply socialising with each other and getting to know how each other tick.
Cycling is often a sport where people live in different areas of the world, turn up to race, then go back home again and not see each other until the next event. It’s that on and off the bike interaction that the team believes helps push development even further and take our Women’s program to the next level – and we love to see our Women’s program and Development program socialising together. Keep an eye out on the rider’s Instagram channels during summer and there’s a good chance you’ll see a group barbecue!
When not training Leah also takes advantage of the local area to relax her mind and refresh for the next goals, something that is important to compete at the highest level.
Continuing to build on success and preparing for what’s next
We’ve talked about the idea behind our Women’s program and the brilliant facilities they have on hand, but how do we help them get to that next level with training to then take results on the road. We spoke to trainer Camiel Dénis [CD] about our training approach and Albert Timmer [AT] to summarise where he thinks we are just now and what lies ahead for our Women’s program.
Some really interesting insights on how we approach training and with that the results have certainly followed…
Looking to the coming period of racing, the prevalence of one-day races decreases as the number of stage races increases with a big month in July looming large that includes the Giro Donne and Tour de France Femmes, as the Women’s peloton continues to take on more and more races. Yet, the team’s approach with their three pillars will remain largely unchanged.
From humble beginnings in 2011 to being consistently one of the top five Women’s teams in the world in the UCI rankings throughout the past five years, we have definitely found our place in the Women’s peloton – as we look to develop even further and aim even higher. We hope you all can join us on our journey!