It has been a slow start to the year for Team DSM, with the squad going through the early months of the season with nary a podium in sight, let alone a victory. Scheldeprijs and new recruit Sam Welsford, however, broke the drought with the Australian rider, who has just switched from the track to the road, taking his first top three result as a road professional at the rain soaked mid-week Classic.
The 26-year-old, who has won a bronze and silver medal on the track at the Olympic Games and also was Australia’s criterium champion in 2020, came in with the chase group behind Scheldeprijs solo winner Alexander Kristoff (Intermarché-Wanty Gobert). Danny van Poppel (Bora-Hansgrohe) won the sprint from the chase group to take second, with Welsford the only rider able to hang onto his wheel.
“Into the last local lap the attacks started coming and we were making sure we didn’t miss any moves and were attacking ourselves too,” said Welsford in a Team DSM media statement. “We worked really well together and played the game. I was lucky enough to go long and hold on to take third.”
“It’s a really good result for the team and we’re getting really close to the top step if we keep progressing the way we are and racing the way we are.”
Teammate Casper van Uden also led the remainder of the break – which included defending champion Jasper Philipsen (Alpecin-Fenix) and Sam Bennett (Bora-Hansgrohe) – over the line to take fourth in the race. The Dutch Pro Series race of 198.7 kilometres deviated from its normal bunch finish, after echelons formed in the stiff winds of the Zeeland along with an elite front group.
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“It was a hard race right from the gun until the finish,” Team DSM Coach Roy Curvers said. “We had three guys in the first echelon of 17 riders, but unfortunately we lost Cees [Boels] there with a puncture – otherwise we would be have been in an even better position for the final.”
“Sam and Casper were doing a really good [job] at the front though and with a lot of fast guys in the first group we had to be sharp and gamble a bit to who we reacted to and who we didn’t. But we raced for the win until the end and if we come home with third and fourth after such a hard race we have to be satisfied.”
Even with a podium now under the belt, it has been a very slow start to the season for the team, even judging by last year’s standard which saw it deliver half the number of victories of the previous year and left it as the lowest ranked of all the WorldTour squads. By the end of March in 2021, Cees Boels had already taken the first win for the team on stage 2 of Paris Nice while Marius Mayrhofer had made it to the podium at Settimana Coppi e Bartali.
Plus the team, which has had a stream of high profile departures in recent seasons, has also lost Michael Storer to Groupama-FDJ in 2022 and he is a rider who last year contributed four of the team total of eight victories. Though, judging by Welsford’s quick adaptation to a full-time focus on road racing, Team DSM may have just found another Australian rider to help contribute to the tally.