Development Team DSM bolster their roster with four promising young talents

Rider Announcements

Photo Credit: Freddy Guérin / DirectVelo

Team DSM are happy to announce that Robbe Dhondt, Frank Ragilo, Max van der Meulen and Vlad van Mechelen will join their Development program as of next season, with all four riders set to wear the distinctive two-striped jersey until the end of 2024.

Photo Credit: Freddy Guérin / DirectVelo

Robbe Dhondt (BEL)

A consistent opening to his first year in the juniors saw Dhondt collect several top ten results in challenging Belgian one-day races such as Nokere Juniors and a second place at Balegem. He also showed promise over the climbs too by winning the youth jersey at the challenging Valromey Juniors against a strong field. 2022 started off strongly for Dhondt as he claimed the KOM jersey at Penn ar Bed Pays d’Iroise where he also took fourth place overall. Following up that form, he attacked and climbed to a superb solo win at Gipuzkoa Klasikoa on his way to a GC top ten, an overall result he replicated at the tough Pays de Vaud Juniors, before claiming a fourth place at the recent European championships road race over a tough course.

Dhondt said: “I chose Team DSM as they are one of the best development programs in the world in my opinion. I am convinced that I can gain a lot of experience and knowledge with the team. I am especially looking forward to the professional approach and mindset of the team. I’m very excited about the fact that I can bring my climbing skills, time trial skills and explosive uphill sprints to a very high level in the short term and also in the long term since this is the philosophy we want to pursue with the team. I can’t wait to make the switch to the team: I’m really looking forward to it.”

Team DSM head coach Rudi Kemna added: “Coming into the season Robbe flew under the radar for many but he started the year with a strong win and several top ten results; showing the talent that he has. He’s developed his time trial in a really good way so far this year. Robbe is also a strong puncheur with good positioning skills; so the Flemish and Ardennes classic style races should suit him, but we think he still has a lot of room to improve and potential to be found as a cyclist as a whole, so we’re looking forward to working with him.”

Photo Credit: Kristjan Kivistik / / Aerobike

Frank Ragilo (EST)

Bursting onto the scene as a first-year junior with an impressive string of results in races in Poland and his native Estonia, where he took two wins and a further five podiums, Ragilo continued that great form with strong results in Belgium; including a second place at Menen – Menen Juniors. Coming into 2022, Ragilo took another step up in his development with a solid and consistent showing in the early classics that included an 11th place at Paris-Roubaix and fifth at E3. Adept against the clock, he powered his way to the Estonian time trial title, alongside a win in his home nation and the Belgian one-day race Hingene – Bornem. Rounding out a brilliant June and July period, he was dominant at the Oberösterreich Juniors taking a stage win on his way to winning the points and overall classifications before an incredibly consistent fourth place on GC at Watersley Junior Challenge.

Ragilo expressed: “I felt like the team believed in me a lot from the moment they contacted me. It feels like a really good environment and the people behind the scenes were really nice. I look forward to developing myself as a cyclist and as person too with Team DSM. In the juniors I see myself as someone who was able to do a bit of everything so we will see how things progress with the team. Firstly, I hope to learn as much as possible with Team DSM and hope that in the long term, success comes because of that hard work.”

Team DSM head coach Rudi Kemna continued: “In his first year in the juniors he performed well and was already on our radar from that moment, and this season he came to the surface even more with at the start of the year with a third place at Guido Reybrouck; a tough cobbled classic. His way of riding also impressed us as he is not scared to put energy in the race to get something out of it. As a rider he is pretty complete; he has a pretty big engine, can climb well on the Flemish ascents and has a good sprint. He’s also a really committed team player too and has shown himself to be more than happy to work for his teammates at Cannibal Team, something that is important for us. He’s someone that could transition into the classics or sprints, and both are possible, but soon we want to focus on his general development before focusing on any specific area.”

Photo Credit: Sophia Zwaan

Max van der Meulen (NED)

Talented young Dutchman Van der Meulen has had a successful two years as a junior rider, immediately making a bang by taking the Nokere Jr 1 crown in his first race. Following that, he claimed a win at Horrues while also picking up two second places in other Belgium one-day races alongside a second on GC at St. Martinusprijs Juniors in 2021. This year saw him move to the Willebrord Wil Vooruit Juniors team and pick up some solid results before taking a strong fifth on GC at the tough Pays de Vaud Juniors. However, his ‘breakthrough’ ride for many was an incredible solo effort over the climbs at Classique Alpes Juniors where he won by almost three minutes. His brilliant summer form has continued with two stage wins and the overall title at Medzinárodné Dubnica nad Váhom, before another impressive solo raid at Watersley Junior Challenge on the final stage which saw him claim the GC crown too; and a recent final day win at Aubel Stavelot Juniors where he took second overall.

Van der Meulen said: “I’m extremely excited to join Team DSM; it has been my dream team for as long as I can remember. I come to the team with the ambition to improve my time trialling skills and focus myself more towards climbing and stage races; but also improve my overall ability. I’m looking forward to working together with the rest of riders, plus the coaches and experts, so hopefully I can realise my dream of becoming a pro cyclist with the team in the future.”

Team DSM head coach Rudi Kemna added: “Max has been one of the revelations of the season in the junior ranks. Last year he was good and solid but this season he has taken another step forward with Willebrord Wil Vooruit Juniors and is always up there with the best. He is quite an all-round rider, but his results show him mainly as a climber. Yet, he won Classique Alpes with an impressive solo but he was also there in the final of the Tour of Flanders for example, so he is a versatile rider that can do a lot. He’s also a very driven individual and always wants to make the races hard. He’s one of the biggest Dutch talents in the juniors and we’re very happy that he joins us.”

Photo Credit: Freddy Guérin / DirectVelo

Vlad Van Mechelen (BEL)

An incredibly impressive debut junior campaign saw Van Mechelen take three wins throughout the year with a stage win at the Jurassic Route Włodowice Juniors alongside the one-day races of Glabbeek and Bierbeek-Bremt. Alongside those successes, Van Mechelen rode strongly in support of his teammates while also picking a further 19 top tens, that included fourth at the European road race and the same result at Paris-Roubaix juniors. This year has seen Van Mechelen pick up where he left off with a stage win at Manavgat Side Juniors finishing second overall behind his teammate. A win at Guido Reybrouck Juniors followed before a stage win at Trophée Morbihan and the one-day race of GP Clément Dumont. Van Mechelen’s 2022 season has been very consistent and highlights his ability to perform over a variety of terrain and out of 34 race days this year, he has taken a brilliant 29 top 15 results.

Van Mechelen said: “I’m extremely proud to join Team DSM, a team with such a rich and successful history and with a lot of expertise. The team showed a lot of confidence and interest in me which I greatly appreciated, and I can’t wait to start working together with everyone and hopefully build on a great future with the team. I see myself as an allrounder who has a strong sprint even after hard races. I want to learn as much as possible and I hope if I get the chance that I can immediately score some good results for the team next season.”

Team DSM head coach Rudi Kemna added: “Vlad has been on our radar for a while, and we’ve had a lot of good contact in the past year. He has performed well in the junior ranks this year for his team Cannibal Team – he has a good sprint; can produce a good time trial and he can survive a hard day in the saddle. For example, at Course de la Paix he was one of the sprinters who made it over the climbs and fought for a good position, while other sprinters were dropped. We’re interested to see how Vlad develops in the coming years as he has potential as both a classics rider and as a sprinter, but like with all of our Development program riders, we want to give him the space to grow as an athlete and as an individual first and foremost.”