Last week it was announced that Dylan Groenewegen was prematurely ending his association with Team Jumbo-Visma and joining Team BikeExchange Jayco for the next three years. The move caught all of us by surprise, both sides did a very good job of keeping it quiet.
It is for “sporting” reasons. Basically, Groenewegen wants to ride the Tour de France, the biggest bike race in the world. Team Jumbo-Visma will be lining up at that race with a team built around Primož Roglič and Wout Van Aert, there was no room for Groenewegen. After having spent six successful years with the team the decision to leave will have been a hard one for the sprinter, but I think we all appreciate his ambition to race in the biggest race.
New Sprint Train
A sprinter needs a sprint train, it makes a huge difference in terms of wins. Team BikeExchange failed to record a single sprint victory in 2021, not a great sign for the sprint train. Okay, the team were riding for Kaden Groves and Michael Matthews in the sprints, two riders who lack the top end speed to win flat sprints against the best in the world, but it’s hard for a team who aren’t used to winning to suddenly start doing it.
Likely to be the final man in the train is Luka Mezgec, a rider who is well respected by his peers. Mezgec has long been a quality lead out man, he certainly has the speed required to be challenging with the likes of Mørkøv, but the team need to make sure they deliver Mezgec and Groenewegen into a good position within the final kilometre, this is where things start to look a little shaky. In position 3 will be Amund Grøndahl Jansen, a role he fulfilled for Groenewegen back in their Jumbo days. The Norwegian is a cool customer, and already having a relationship with Groenewegen is important. One issue is that 2021 wasn’t a great year for him, he’ll need to be riding at his very best to help secure good position in the closing stages of races.
Some teams in recent years have looked to go with a short sprint train, but this strategy can be risky. Top sprinters normally perform at their best with a longer sprint train, it increases your chances of controlling the final 3km, which also increases your chances of winning. Take this year for example, Caleb Ewan spoke about the difficulties Lotto Soudal had at the start of the season in position 4, it is a very important position in the train. Will the team look to Alexander Edmondson to plug this gap? He is fast, this could be a role he does well in. The squad also have a couple of talented young track riders joining in 2022, both Campbell Stewart and Kell O’Brien have the power required, but it’s unlikely the team will trust this position to a rider in their first year at world tour level. So, it looks like a sprint train of Edmondson, Jansen, Mezgec and Groenewegen. It sounds decent enough but won’t strike fear into the hearts of the big teams.
The Elephant in the Room
What about Michael Matthews? He has all the attributes to be a wonder lead out man, but it’s rare to see a team leader used in such a role. I doubt we’ll see Matthews and Groenewegen go to many races together, but they’ll both line up at the Tour de France. If the Aussie fills position 3, I think Groenewegen will start the sprints in a good position. Despite it being the hardest race of the season, it could be easier for Groenewegen to take wins. While other teams will arrive with shortened lead outs, due to GC ambitions, I would expect the Aussies to have a longer train compared to most. With Matthews on hand to help, Groenewegen should be capable of winning a stage in France.
With just nine wins in 2021, the team needed to do something. Signing one of the fastest sprinters in the world was a brilliant move, but it doesn’t guarantee more wins. In the big races Groenewegen will be going up against teams with established trains, it is vital that the team hit the ground running. If the sprint train clicks, this could be a wonderful move for Groenewegen and Team BikeExchange Jayco.