Roel van Sintmaartensdijk now truly a WorldTour pro: "Teunissen and Van Poppel said it was all good" Cycling

Roel van Sintmaartensdijk now truly a WorldTour pro: "Teunissen and Van Poppel said it was all good"

Roel van Sintmaartensdijk now truly a WorldTour pro: "Teunissen and Van Poppel said it was all good"

This week in Oman, Roel van Sintmaartensdijk is starting his first full year as a rider in the WorldTour. The time trialist, whose brother Daan became the Dutch national street racing champion last weekend, looks forward to learning a lot at the highest level and hopes to be able to show himself now and then. spoke with the ever-friendly rider!

The Dutchman was promoted to the professional branch from the development team of Intermarché-Wanty, although he was also part of the Belgian team's winter training camp last year. Van Sintmaartensdijk clearly feels at home within the team where Aike Visbeek is in charge of sports, hoping he can show that on the asphalt. A great year awaits him.

How do you like it, these first months as a WorldTour rider?

"It's special to call yourself a pro from January 1st, but I already experienced the training camp in January last year as an U23 rider. The riders and staff are largely the same, so it feels familiar. The atmosphere is good, and it's always nice to work on your form together in Spain."

What are the differences?

"There aren't really any. The approach is the same, and there is a clear strategy, a clear annual planning, and a role distribution that is known in advance. So, you know your schedule, and that really helps."

Tell us more.

"I'll be doing some races with the sprinters but am also part of the classics team. This way, I can discover new races in the WorldTour, but also join Gerben Thijssen in the sprint train. We have are some great races lined up. I start in Oman and then I'll ride Omloop Het Nieuwsblad, Samyn, followed by Paris-Nice. Those are big, prestigious races."

Those are serious races. Do you feel a certain healthy tension for a race like Paris-Nice?

"Of course. It's a highly regarded race, where the level will be super high. I'll have some nerves about showing up at the starting line there, but if you know you're well-prepared with the team, it can only be a great week. But obviously, when you hear you're participating, you think to yourself: wow, that's a big race."

Those are what you become a pro for, of course.

"Exactly, those are the highest level races. Where the best riders appear at the starting line. The fact that the team trusts me to participate in those in my first year is also great, of course."

How do you feel about that trust from the team?

"It's been very strong from the first moment. When I joined the team last year, they said: you're basically pro-ready, but we want to use you as the leader of the U23 team for one more year. This way, we could alternate between riding in service and chasing results in U23 races, which I thought was amazing. Having that trust and knowing you're ready for it gives you a boost."

That leadership role, do they also give you that with a certain thought towards the future? As in: so that you feel more responsibility for the team?

"I was among the better U23 riders, so they automatically look to you a bit more. I was definitely up for being an U23 for one more year, also because I could still join the team on training camps and such. At the Development Team, I could already pass on those experiences a bit."

roel van sintmaartendijk

How would you describe the culture in the team? Originally it's a Walloon team, but do you notice that much?

"With Dutch staff like Adriaan Helmantel and Aike Visbeek, it actually feels like home, also because there are many Dutch-speaking Belgians. The team's working language is English too, so it's quite international anyway. I'm really enjoying my time with this team."

Do you have a particular connection with the other Dutch riders, such as Mike Teunissen, Boy van Poppel and Taco van der Hoorn?

"You do hang out with them, but in this team, the seating at the table is mixed. That's a great thing, as it prevents cliques from forming. It's not that Belgians, Italians and Dutch riders all sit separately, but everyone is mixed together. I haven't seen Taco much due to his concussion, but I'm glad he's been here for a few days. I raced with the other guys last year. Mike and Boy also told me things were looking good when they saw me ride, so that was nice to hear."

Aike drafts the annual plans, as we know. Did yours pan out last year?

"Absolutely, it turned out perfectly. Joining the training camp in December and January... Starting in Algarve, and a week later locking in my win in the U23 category. I was also able to ride several races throughout the year in service of the plan, which allowed many riders from the U23 team to turn pro. That was how it had all been laid out, and it worked out exactly like that."

So, we're curious about your plan for this year.

"I know the broad outline, but of course, things can always change due to illnesses or injuries. After Paris-Nice, I'll also ride the Belgian classics with Gerben, like Nokere, Bredene and De Panne. But also, for example, Volta Limburg. I really like the planning."

Any grand tour plans?

"In principle, I think I could handle it, but it's not on the schedule yet. During training and races, I notice that I don't deteriorate as things go on for longer, so in that sense, I think I have a big engine. The Vuelta has quite a bit of climbing: not that I'm bad at it, but it's not ideal. Normally, there won't be any grand tours on my schedule this year."

Roel van Sintmaartensdijk now truly a WorldTour pro: "Teunissen and Van Poppel said it was all good"

How would you describe yourself as a rider?

"Last year, I also rode some good time trials. For my height, I'm quite light, but not light enough to compete uphill at the front. I think I should be able to handle the classics with a tough profile: a bit hilly, and I also have a solid sprint. In addition, I can really do my part in the lead-out train because I can keep guys out of the wind with my height. So, an all-rounder who can manage a bit of everything."

What are your long-term ambitions?

"I want to be important in the lead-out and discover the classics. A race like Roubaix, riding hard all day long... Those are the races I want to discover."

Another thing: guys are turning pro younger now. You were a senior U23, but you see them making the jump younger and younger. Do you have an explanation for that?

"I don't know. Maybe it's the general developments in terms of science, nutrition and such? Everything is meticulously researched from an early age, leading to faster results in potential talents. And then you might make that step faster than before because you stand out earlier."

"Take Alexey Faure Prost: he's super young, a second-year U23 who can ride really well uphill. He was the leader this year in the Giro NextGen, which I got to experience up close. It's nice to work with such a guy, as a first-year U23 he already rode very well. He was second on the Stelvio in the Baby Giro, and for that you really have to be able to push watts for a solid hour."

How much room for improvement do you still have?

"I've made a lot of progress every year. I started as a club rider in the U23 category and then moved via VolkerWessels to the development team, but I've also learned a lot from the experienced guys at Intermarché. Training-wise, there's still room for improvement, looking towards the future."

Types like you, strong riders, often take the gradual path. Take Niki Terpstra or Dylan van Baarle in the Netherlands, for example. If you want to score in the classics, it is hard to make that jump all at once. Do you also hope to follow that path?

"I've been able to take that extra step up each year so far. Now I'm at the start of my first pro year, and I want to continue taking those steps so I can grow into a rider who can achieve beautiful results and be important for his team."

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