Times are changing and Europeans are increasingly infiltrating the pro-gravel scene.
With your enormous success, Lawrence ten damo In the Netherlands gravel is giving racing a very hard boost and it is catching on.
leading up to unbound gravel On June 4th, an entire team of Dutch racers traveled to the United States for a month-long training and racing trip with the Gravel Locos in Texas and the Unbound Gravel in Kansas.
Nicknamed the “Dutch Mafia”, the group was made up of Ivar Slick, Jasper Okelloen, Thomas Decker and Lawrence Ten Dam – all of whom became pro road racers gravel riders.
“Lauren is a billboard from Gravel Racing [in the Netherlands], Ivar and I were kind of done with road racing and we love an adventure so we also started a gravel race,” said Okelloen cycling weekly After finishing in 20th place in the Unbound 200.
“It’s a good challenge and I love that it’s a combination of a pro race and an amateur race and it’s such a great event that everyone can have fun. On the road, it’s narrower and with only a little more racing.” And I think a lot of people in the Netherlands are now talking about gravel and showing interest.
Ockeloen and Slik grew up running together as juniors, were part of the Rabobank development program and have been circling various continental teams. A generation ahead of them, Decker and Ten Dam are longtime friends and former WorldTour teammates and contestants.
Ten Dam said that he and Slick train together 2-3 times a week in the winter and, likewise, Decker and O’Clean ride together. The bond is close, but the competition is severe.
While countrymen may train and travel together, come race day, there is no such thing as a Dutch gravel team.
Each rider has their own team affiliations and sponsors, and when running “it’s every man for himself,” Ten Dam said.
And it seems to be working fine for the Dutch mafia.
In May, Ocklin won the Gravel Loco while Slick finished second. In 2021, it was ten dams on the top step of the gravel Locos podium, before Ian Boswell missed the unbound 2021 victory by inches. this year, it was Unbound 200 Winning Slick After an exciting four-up finale. And while Ten Dam made a tremendous singles effort, he finished fourth.
“Certainly, our American campaign couldn’t be better,” Slick told Cycling Weekly.
“First the gravel engine and now this. It is the largest gravel race in the world. That I could win it instantly only in my second appearance, I never would have imagined. ,
“My whole season has been great, and I get a lot of support from everyone, especially my colleagues.”
In addition to gravel, Slick has a mountain bike background and still runs beach races in the Netherlands while also competing on the road for the UCI continental team ABLOC. For gravel, Slick Wilier is on the Triestina factory team.
Looks like Slick is learning quickly from Ten Dam.
“I choose the gravel route because it suits me better than road racing because I come from a mountain bike background. I trained for long distances and I’m recovering. I’m very happy with this win. Very special for him,” he said.
Boswell, ousted from his unbound throne, accepted his defeat with decency and welcome.
“Being the first non-American to win this race is a sign of the times,” he said.
“What I wish for this race was a super strong rider with a panache of unbound victories and he did. He’s always racing his bike, you know, he rides hard, he pulls and he’s second in the locus too.” So I’m very happy to see him win. I mean it was a heaping ground.”
Ten Dam was happy to have his country mate and training partner, but was pleasantly surprised by his own performance at Unbound. His daring attack left him chasing and with little energy for the final sprint, he said his legs were feeling too strong today. Stronger than 2021.
“I thought I wouldn’t be able to [race] For a very long time,” admitted the 41-year-old. “But maybe I can if I’m still going strong.”
All four riders said they would be back in 2022, and one can only guess how many more are to come.