• The peloton in action at the Santos Tour Down Under. (Getty)Source: Getty
Lars Bak has joined Dimension Data this season confident the team can restore its status following a dismal 2018 campaign.
Sophie Smith

Cycling Central
22 Jan 2019 - 8:48 AM 

The 39-year-old race veteran has transferred to the revamped squad after almost a decade at Lotto Soudal, which disbanded its core sprint group that Bak was a part of to usher in Caleb Ewan this year.

“I wanted to actually stay with Lotto, but I could not really get an offer in the start. For me it was also a nice opportunity to try something new,” Bak said. “Of course, it’s hard to leave Lotto because it was seven fantastic years but I’m really happy with where I am now. I feel like, even though I’m old, that it’s a new challenge. You have to show yourself again.”

Bak’s surety wasn’t misplaced at the Tour Down Under last week where 24-year-old teammate Ryan Gibbons was on track for a top 10 finish and led the best young rider classification before sixth and final queen stage to Willunga Hill. Gibbons finished 11th overall – 43 seconds behind winner Daryl Impey (Mitchelton-Scott).

“I think already here Ryan Gibbons, he showed really good strength and is looking really good. Also, Ben O’Connor,” Bak said.

Dimension Data won just five races and circled the sinkhole in 2018, plagued by rider injury and illness that affected Mark Cavendish, who apparently will be less of a team poster boy for the squad in 2019.

American Ben King did begin to turn the team’s fortune at Vuelta a España in which he won two stages. However, it’s a set of savvy signings that has perhaps given the squad a new lease and suggested a greater emphasis on the classics moving forward. Michael Valgren, Romain Kreuziger and Enrico Gasparotto, who finished first, second and third, respectively at Amstel Gold Race last year, are among nine that have joined the stable.

“Let us put it this way, Dimension Data was last in the [WorldTour] ranking last year so it can only improve,” Bak said. “For sure it will be better. I’m 100 per cent sure. With Gasparotto, with Romain Kreuziger, with Michael Valgren and some young talent coming in, I think we’re going to have a really nice year.”

Bak’s transition has been made easier as he is somewhat familiar with the set-up at Dimension Data. The Dane has worked with Cavendish, Mark Renshaw, Bernhard Eisel and performance manager Rolf Aldag previously, during Highroad’s halcyon days.

“I had a good talk with Rolf Aldag, and also I’m a good friend of Michael Valgren. I heard a little bit about what he [Valgren] wanted to do, and he said he would like that I could join him. Rolf Aldag also said the team was going to change a lot. We have nine new riders in Dimension Data, so it was a good mix,” he said.

“After this, the next focus is the classics with Edvald Boasson Hagen and Michael. We have a quite strong classics team.

“I don’t know if I’ll do the Tour de France but of course I would like to do races with Cavendish.”