Dirk Demol, guest of the week at Cafe Roubaix
A former rider and winner of Paris-Roubaix, back in 1988, after the longest successful breakaway in the history of the race (222 kilometers), Dirk Demol is one of Trek Factory Racing’s sport directors, and this year he’s ready to lead the team once again in the Spring Classics. The experience he provides can be of huge help for triple Flanders and Roubaix winner Fabian Cancellara, whose main goals of the season will come in March and April, when the most important one-day races of the calendar are on the schedule.
But Trek’s goals for 2015 will not lie only in the Classics, but also in stage races, for which the team made an important transfer in the off-season, signing Bauke Mollema, one of the most consistent GC riders of the peloton, with two top 10 placings in the previous Tour de France editions. In addition to Cancellara and Mollema, the US registered team – which scored 12 wins last year – has many young riders, who are expected to step up and show their big potential.
Just a couple of days before the first European race of the season – Trofeo Santanyi – I got the chance to talk to Dirk Demol and ask him more about the 2014 season of the team and the goals for 2015, a year in which Trek Factory Racing wants once again to be a protagonist in all the big races.
– Mister Demol, how would you rate Trek’s 2014 season?
I would say it was good until the end of May, but things didn’t go as well afterwards. We had a strong Spring thanks to Fabian Cancellara, who got the win in the Tour of Flanders and podiums in Milan-Sanremo and Paris-Roubaix, which was great. Also, another highlight was the Giro stage win of Julian Arredondo, who also won the best climber jersey, and the results of Giacomo Nizzolo in the sprints. We don’t know what happened in the second half of the season, we had many podiums, but not so many wins, although I must admit the Tour de France brought us some satisfaction, after Haimar Zubeldia finished 8th. One reason is that the team was new and we had many young riders who lacked experience. But now, after the trainings camp, we are really confident for this season. The young guys are more confident and we’re sure they’ll have a very strong year.
– Speaking of these young riders, Trek has some very talented ones: Jasper Stuyven, Bob Jungels and Danny van Poppel. How do you see their progress so far?
They are one year older, more experienced and more confident. Danny van Poppel was really good during his first pro year, he didn’t get a win, but has had some nice results. Then, during 2014, he improved and you could see that when he won in Driedaagse van West-Vlaanderen and the Tour de Luxembourg. Now he is much stronger and can win even more races. Jasper Stuyven is another guy who we knew and was even better than we have expected in the Classics. We found out very quickly what he can do in these races and was impressive in Paris-Roubaix, where he has helped Fabian Cancellara a lot and was very important to him, especially as our team has had some problems there. As for Bob Jungels, he did a lot of good things in strong World Tour races like Paris-Nice or Vuelta a España, and became more powerful in 2014. I’m sure he has a bright future ahead of him and I can’t wait to see what he will do in the stage races.
– As was the case in the past years, Fabian Cancellara will be one of the team’s leaders. Due to his age and the many young guns coming from behind, do you think it’s going to be more difficult for him to win a Monument?
It’s never easy to win a Monument, but he did it two seasons in a row, taking Flanders, Roubaix and again Flanders, as well as getting many other podiums. Of course, there are guys like Sep Vanmarcke, Greg Van Avermaet, John Degenkolb and Peter Sagan who want to win a Classic, but Fabian is looking good after the training camps and is much fitter than one year ago. He still has the motivation, has that big engine and with a much stronger team alongside, I’m sure he can win a Monument again. In the Classics, it’s not always important to be the strongest rider. Everybody knows Cancellara wasn’t the strongest in the 2014 Tour of Flanders, but he was the smartest and the most experienced one. Fabian wants to win again a big one-day race and he will be there, inspite of his age or the pressure.
– Is there a rider you believe that can be the most dangerous?
In the Classics everything is possible, but after a 260 kilometers race it depends a lot on what you still have in your legs, and we saw that in Flanders, last season. Besides the usual suspects, I’d also say that we must watch out for Bradley Wiggins in Paris-Roubaix, because he will not come there just to say he got the opportunity to race Roubaix. He will be there to win. On the other hand, having him there can turn out to be an advantage for us, because Fabian likes to make the race hard, and with Wiggins in Paris-Roubaix, the race will be even harder. Everyone knows that Fabian is not a sprinter, but he is very strong and after a 260 kilometers race he’s one of the fastest from a small group, so he has a good chance of winning against any of the other riders.
– How important is the addition of Gert Steegmans to the Classics team?
Gert Steegmans is one of the best riders in the peloton when it comes to positioning and I’m sure he will be very important for us, the team made a good move by signing him. Gert has raced Flanders and Roubaix on many occasions and will help Fabian, not in the deep final, but he will be very important in the first 200 kilometers of the race, where his role will be to protect Cancellara in the peloton. I wanted him since last year, but it wasn’t possible, because he still had a contract. Besides the Classics, Steegmans will be important to our young sprinters, but in the same time I’m sure he still has what it takes to win a race.
– The team strengthened its GC credentials by signing Bauke Mollema. What are the expectations when it comes to him?
In the last two years we didn’t have a rider to come all the time in the top 10 of stage races, and Bauke Mollema will help us fix that. As we could see, he is always a candidate for a podium in stage races, but also in the Classics. Is great to have him in the team, and with Frank Schleck and Haimar Zubeldia in very good shape, we’re much stronger now. In the training camp we could see Bauke was fitting quite easily in the group, so I’m sure he will have a nice season.
– After coming to Trek, Mollema said that one of his main goals for 2015 is to get a top 5 in the Tour de France. What do you think he must improve in order to do that?
We could see in the past that at the end of the Tour his legs weren’t so good, so maybe we have to think of a different program or preparation, in order for him to have more power for the last week-end, which is so crucial for the final standings. Bauke is a rider who can adapt to a new program, so it won’t be difficult to do this. One of the most important goals will be to bring him as fit as possible at the start of the Tour de France.
– Who do you think that can be the revelation of the team?
I would have to say Bob Jungels. He will make again a big step forward, is still young, much stronger than in the previous season and after being close a couple of times last year, I truly believe we will see him going big and scoring some impressive results.