Laurens ten Dam will be at the start of Gravel Unbound in the US on Saturday, the biggest gravel race of the year. However, he is only the only Dutchman at first. Also participating in the race are his friend Thomas Decker and former road racers Ivar Slick, Jasper O’Kelwyn and Dennis van Wenden. The Dutch are already being kidnapped by the competition Dutch Mafia the name of the thing.
‘They’re calling us now Dutch MafiaTin Dam Fan says, philonews† Ivar and Jasper travel together, but as a group they call it that. I know them all very well since I came back home in Holland. Ivar is in my training group and Jasper trains with Thomas so there is a real bond between us. Jasper and Thomas also live close to each other in Amsterdam.”
However, the Dutch are not a real group. Ten Dam, for example, competes with Dekker in gravel races. ‘Ockeloen and Slik are ten years younger than Thomas and I, so it only makes sense that they would travel together and that Thomas and I do what we do. We are old. In general, you should not be afraid to compete for a Dutch team. “We don’t race as a team. It’s every man for himself on clay courts. Perhaps there’s more sympathy for each other in the group than if we don’t know each other, but we all do our own racing,” Ten Dam confirms.
Slik and Ockeloen learn from Ten Dam
Although Ten Dam has been riding gravel racing since 2016, only since last year has the Dutchman been fully active in the field. Honestly, last year was my first real year. I did some gravel in 2016, but then I was still quite on the road. Ten Dam was impressed with how quickly Slik and Ockeloen adapted to gravel racing. This year Ockeloen won the Gravel Locos award, which Ten Dam won last year. Ivar and Jasper were new last year, but saw the level of me and Ian Boswell (former Team Sky rider, editor). And while different from road cycling, they did their homework during the winter. I have to praise them for that.
The two actually asked the teacher for advice. “In December I had a big barbecue and they came to me and started asking me questions about gravel; when they had to come here, travel, competition conditions and everything else, now they can save themselves here for a month’,” Ten Dam commends his countrymen. They make friends here and they are on a very good level here. I think that’s good. Thomas and I are a little older and have a lot more on our minds at home. On the other hand, we’ve trained hard in the last month and hopefully that will be enough for next Saturday, continues Ten Dam.
Ten Dam: “I am very proud to be back.”
Whether or not it was due to strong Dutch competition; The overall level of peloton in gravel racing has risen sharply this year. “Last year there were only six men in our group at Gravel Locos and this year there were nearly fifty,” says Ten Dam. “The offer is now in place, especially with mountain bikers and the Life Time collection being added.” However, Ten Dam also sees a flaw in the higher level. “It might make the group of contenders bigger, but it can also lead to negative races because when the group is big, you have riders who start skipping turns, that kind of thing.”
Last year, Ten Dam took second place in the Gravel Unboud, the most important gravel race of the year, at 320 (!) kilometers. Can he win this year? “Last year I raced with great confidence. I came to the States knowing I had trained well and immediately won Gravel Locos. This year I am also doing well, but I have some problems.” In September I fell and got a brain contusion, but I am happy Very proud to be back. I may not be at last year’s level when I was so strong and only got two years out of the WorldTour, but I’m still very happy with my current form,” concludes Ten Dam.
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