I was quite blunt in my previous comments, and after reading the latest reactions, I will add a bit more of my thoughts:
- Van Wilder was physically ready for this Vuelta. This means he has trained hard the whole summer, and now he doesn't have a race, and soon it will be september and almost the end of the season. But he wasn't taken because of lack of cooperation. Is Van Wilder a diva? Doesn't he listen to the team orders? Is he disrespectful towards other riders, coaches, mechanics,...? I don't know. I do know that Van Wilder wanted the fashionable aerobars that are in use by all TT specialists. At DSM, only some riders in the team are getting them. Van Wilder wanted them for his TT, and he didn't get them. So it wasn't about the lack of bikes, but more about the fine tuning of equipment. (edit: it's even worse: I already heard this story but couldn't believe it, but it goes that Van Wilder didn't get a disc wheel to ride his Belgian championship TT...!). It seems DSM saw that as demanding too much...
- Van Wilder indeed had to start last Vuelta with an injury. Kemna argued that they couldn't replace him anymore on the eve of the start of the Vuelta. So it seems they just gave it a go and tried. Van Wilder was probably eager as well to just start and try. I cannot imagine DSM having forced him to start (edit: I heard though the grapevine that Van Wilder was forced to start, against his own will...!). But it wasn't smart. And since that Vuelta, Van Wilder has been promised to ride the Vuelta this year.
- Kragh Andersen wanted his seatpost lowered by a few mm just before the start of Paris-Nice. DSM thinks it is disrespectful towards the (professional) bike fitter, so it refused. DSM also argues that this can lead to injury.
- Storer was leaving the bubble in July 2020 to buy shampoo. That was seen as a high risk just before the Tour. But during this year's Tour, Kemna came into the bubble, went out to buy ice cream and thus breached the policy he used to remove Storer.
DSM seems to me like a very corporate and regulated environment: everyone has his role, everyone is professional, there are strict rules and protocols, and ignoring those rules and protocols is always seen as a big issue. Not necessarily for the result of not following the rule, but for the precedent and settings examples. This works well in big companies that have a hierarchy, and people can climb in that hierarchy after some time. It shows a drive to think in the long term and to aim for high and consistent standards.
But DSM is not a big company. Cyclists have short, and insecure careers and they don't have years to climb in a hierarchy in a corporate environment. And cyclists who actually win races, often have a strong and independent character and are demanding. This mindset doesn't match well with a corporate environment.
The result we see now, is that DSM either has young talents, or subtop sprinters / classics guys that would have to work for other riders in other teams. They don't get results, because they put the team philosophy even above winning races.
Winning races seems to be a by-product, and the team philosophy seems to be the absolute priority. Even worse: the team philosophy doesn't seem to guarantee any wins in the long term. So one has to wonder: what is the team philosophy actually good for? It mostly seems to guarantee conflicts with riders.
As a result, I can only imagine that the general atmosphere at DSM is one of hierarchy in terms of the content of everything cycling related, and while Kemna claims it's very transparent, I doubt that a lot of things are spoken out loudly, especially giving critique if the team isn't winning. The riders don't have to give critique anyway: if the team and coaches tell them how to train, how to ride and even what tire pressure they will get, they can only blame the management and don't have to worry (if they obey) that they have personal blame. If you hear the interviews with Kelderman, he suggests that experienced riders don't fit within DSM, because those riders have already figured out what works for them, and they don't need a team like DSM telling them that it has to change because the team tells them.
So DSM is a good team for young kids that need direction, and that don't know how to improve, but the philosophy prevents it from ever being a true succesful team for more than the odd year in which they drafted some very big talents (like with Hirschi).
My main gripe with the team, is thus that they seem to overmanage their riders (treat them like dependent children), in a technocratic way that doesn't leave much room for rider's initiative. That's all fine when you are winning, but if you're not winning or there is a conflict, the team philosophy prevents any satisfying solution other than to leave the team. I can imagine the riders are collegial and close-knit, but I can't imagine there is an adult relation between the management and the riders, if you're not even allowed to lower your saddle for a few millimeters (for this reason alone, Merckx would not fit in the team, and neither Tom Boonen). In the end, I thought a cycling team is about winning. If you can't keep riders that are winning, and you end up with a non-winning bunch of subtop riders and upcoming talents, you have a team without the uplifting spirit of celebrating a win.
From an employee perspective, DSM's philosophy is clearly not directed to satisfy the needs / desires or to manage the frustrations of their riders. DSM pays money, provides everything (and maybe even too much), but with so much support and protocols in place, it means that DSM doesn't leave much room for the 'product' they manage (human beings). They seem to have forgotten to implement that human character into their 'professional' team philosophy, designed for robots and slaves.