For Frank van den Broek, there is less room for creative tinkering at DSM-Firmenich PostNL: "The goal for 2024 feels a bit vague" Cycling

For Frank van den Broek, there is less room for creative tinkering at DSM-Firmenich PostNL: "The goal for 2024 feels a bit vague"

For Frank van den Broek, there is less room for creative tinkering at DSM-Firmenich PostNL: "The goal for 2024 feels a bit vague"

Frank van den Broek is likely to be one of the most interesting pro cyclists to watch closely next season. The Dutchman is on an impressive journey in his cycling career, which shows no sign of ending anytime soon. This week, he begins his first full season as a WorldTour professional with DSM-Firmenich PostNL in Oman. spoke with him.

Cyclists are sometimes seen as dull, but that's hardly the case for Van den Broek. As a continental rider, he made his own energy gels, simply because it was cheaper than buying them. A sort of inventive tinkerer in the peloton, but at a WorldTour team like DSM-Firmenich PostNL, the support system is so well-established that there's less room for such ingenuity.

"Frank is incredibly motivated and full of energy, but we try to focus that enthusiasm on what really matters," said Rudi Kemna, the sporting director, describing his earlier impressions. "He's a great guy. I met him in Alsace, where he was battling it out tough as nails but still managed to keep smiling. I told him then: Keep that smile, those traits are invaluable," Kemna neatly sums up his protégé's character in a nutshell. Van den Broek couldn't help but smile widely when we mentioned it to him.

Frank! First off, how are you? The last time we spoke was after the National Championships. Back then, you were still wearing an ABLOC jersey after a great Nationals, but now you've got a pro contract with DSM-Firmenich PostNL through 2026 in your pocket.

"It feels good. It's nice to have signed for three years; it gives a lot of security."

You've already spent the first few months with the development team. What are your impressions after this short half year?

"That it's really a professional organization, because that's what it is: a business. The transition was quite natural because the first race I rode with the Development Team was actually immediately my last. After that, I've only been with the WorldTour team."

In October, you also spoke with us, and at that time, you didn't quite know yet what type of rider you are. Now, a few months later, has that direction become a bit clearer?

"I've now been placed in the classification group, so I do all the training days with the real climbers. But the program is really diverse, so I've had the chance to really find out what suits me best or what I'm most passionate about. That's really nice."

Tell us, what does that program look like.

frank van den broek

"I'll start in Oman, with Fabio Jakobsen among others. That's one of the only races I'll do with the sprint train, but after that, there are races like the Tour of Catalonia. But then there are also some classics mixed in, so it's a bit up and down."

Was that at your own request?

"I think I was the one who brought it up, indeed, that I didn't want to be pigeonholed too quickly. But the plan was really made together with the team, in the end. It looks like it'll be a mix of playing a free role and supporting roles, including in the hill classics. Possibly, in the classics, for example, I could be sent ahead to do my work in that way."

And the time trials, since you proved at the Nationals that you're good at them? And we're seeing a trend that smaller, compact riders are increasingly doing well in that discipline...

"That's definitely a focus area. I've already done a track test, so we're really working on it. I'm trying to train for it as much as possible."

You've been racing for DSM-Firmenich PostNL for about half a year now. Can you share any insights into how you've improved during that time?

"I'm not quite ready to say just yet; I think we'll have to wait until the first races. I haven't necessarily trained more, but things are going very well. I can focus my energy on optimizing my surroundings without worrying about peripheral issues. There's definitely still room for improvement, given the higher level of competition. I participated in a few races with the WorldTour team last year, but those didn't include any WorldTour races or longer stage races. Just by doing those, I hope to make a step up."

frank van den broek

Would you also like to race in the Vuelta?

"I think so. The Giro and Tour are definitely not on my schedule, but we'll have to see about the Vuelta at the end of the first half of the season. If all goes well, I'd like to ride in the Vuelta. But, of course, that also depends on the first half of the year.."

How were you received by the classification team, what's the vibe like? On paper, there's a nice balance with Romain Bardet and Warren Barguil, but also young guys like yourself, Gijs Leemreize, Max Poole, Oscar Onley, and so on...

"It's a really good mix. The young guys definitely bring that hunger, so to speak. But on the other hand, the Frenchmen bring experience, so it's a really fun group to be part of."

How do you view someone like Bardet then?

"I shared a room with him for the first few days, so you try to learn as much as you can from his experience. He's very focused on his approach to the Giro, but what struck me most is how hard he is on himself during training. He really pushes through, and he suffers. I just let him go, then; I'm better off riding at my own pace."

Hahaha, you're absolutely right. Is learning and absorbing knowledge your main ambition for 2024? When would you consider your year a success?

"It feels a bit vague, but I see this coming season – also because I've signed for three years – really as preparation for the two years that follow. If I can perform in 2025 and 2026, then I'll consider 2024 a successful year. That might sound a bit odd. Maybe I can achieve some results this year or contribute in some way, then I'll definitely be satisfied. But even if I don't make a dent in a pack of butter and still learn a lot, I'll be happy. That's how I see it."

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