What is the DSM "system"

In the most recent podcast, the crew discussed the rider exodus from DSM, and in doing so, mentioned the “system” that riders have to buy into when joining the team. What is the DSM way and what makes it unique?

Without knowing much about the inner workings of any pro cycling team, my understanding is that DSM’s staff micro-manage their riders’ training, nutrition, prep, race tactics etc, by contrast with other teams who give the rider a bit of freedom with their fitness program as long as they do their job in the race.

DSM/Sunweb have been compared on other forums that I’ve perused to a high school team where the coach insists on everything being done his way, whereas other teams have various levels of freedom in a lot of ways. I believe Movistar would be considered to be opposite end of the spectrum, where it’s a lot more, “show up at the sign-on and we’ll work the tactics out on the bus from the hotel.”

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From what I have been able to discern this is probably a fair assessment.

I think for DSM their system works well for certain riders. Some athletes, when left to their own devices, will become obsessive and over-analyze training, nutrition, etc, etc to the point of being a detriment. For an example of this and to to plug a podcast, listen to this one with Luke Durbridge talking to his former teammate Svein Tuft before Roubaix. Durbo touches on his younger years and some of the mistakes he made (apologies for Apple only link)

Anyway, for riders who are obsessing and maybe lacking in confidence, the DSM program works very well. It seems the riders who end up leaving are usually higher profile, with some levels of success. Kittel, Matthews, Hirschi, Benoot. I think any successful rider winning at the WT will struggle with the DSM style, partly because these riders inevitably end up with an entourage who have an effect of them and may eventually work against the team.

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I have heard this as well that the riders have to be managed in almost every aspect of the riding. Seems some riders do not mind some hate it. I always find it odd once a rider finds success they want to leave. Seems like they will put up with it to get a name for themselves and move on

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In all walks of life, many people don’t like being micro-managed. On the back of success, the riders will be in a stronger negotiating position for a role at a team where they have more freedom.

Other than Kittel to Quickstep, I can’t think of anyone whose left Giant/Sunweb/DSM and gone on to better or even similar success, though. Hirschi might still have a good career ahead of him.

Hirschi is young, he had a stellar 2020 and a sub-par 2021, he should come around.

Regarding riders who joined DSM after having had success, Bardet won a stage at the Vuelta with DSM, and while it’s not his best result by far, it had been a while he hadn’t won anything.

They’ve generally been where young riders got their start (Degenkolb, Dumoulin, Kittel, Barguil) and I remember it being a big deal when they signed Matthews as I believe that was one of the first times that they brought in someone who was already an established name.

Worth noting Matthews has had his 2 best seasons statistically when he rode for Sunweb:

https://www.procyclingstats.com/rider/michael-matthews