Laurens ten Dam with ‘Dutch mafia’ to Unbound: “But it’s every man for himself in gravel racing”

Laurens ten Dam with ‘Dutch mafia’ to Unbound: “But it’s every man for himself in gravel racing”

Saturday, June 4, 2022 at 10:57 am

Laurens ten Dam is one of the big favorites this Saturday for Unbound Gravel, a prestigious gravel race in the United States. However, he is not the only Dutchman who has a chance of winning: Ivar Slik, Jasper Ockeloen and Thomas Dekker, among others, are also at the departure. The foursome is also known as the ‘Dutch mafia’ on the other side of the ocean.

The four travel in two groups – Ten Dam and Dekker, Ockeloen and Slik – through the United States, where they have been preparing for the big goal in recent weeks. Ten Dam is the one of the quartet with the most experience in the gravel scene, although last year was only his first real season as a professional in this discipline. “I did some gravel races in 2016, but at that time I was still completely on the road,” says the former rider of Rabobank, Sunweb and CCC, among others. VeloNews

Everyone for himself
“I won a few Grasshoppers (a competition in California with gravel and mountain bike competitions, ed.), but I didn’t participate in Unbound. (…) Ockeloen and Slik are ten years younger than Thomas and I, so it makes sense that they travel together, while Thomas and I do our thing. We are the old men,” says 41-year-old Ten Dam. “But we don’t drive as a team. It’s every man for himself in gravel racing. Maybe there is a little more sympathy for each other in the group than if we didn’t know each other, but we all ride our own course.”

Last year Ten Dam finished second in Unbound, behind former Sky rider Ian Boswell. Slik (fourteenth) and Ockeloen (tenth) ultimately did not participate for the win. “Ivar and Jasper were new last year. They saw the level of me and Ian Boswell and maybe that was different, but they did their homework this winter. I have to compliment them on that. In December I had a big barbecue, they came over and all started asking me questions about gravel. When to go to the US, how to travel, the competition conditions and the like. Now they know how to deal with that for a month.”

Brain Contusion
It turned out: in Gravel Locos (an important clay game in Texas, two weeks ago, ed.) Ockeloen and Slik became one and two. Ten Dam (eighth in Gravel Locos) also sees his form growing, but has not had a flawless preparation. “Last year I came to the race with a lot of confidence. I came to the US knowing that I had trained really well and immediately won Gravel Locos. Now I’m still in it, but I’ve also had some issues. Last September I fell and suffered a brain contusion. But I am very happy and proud of my comeback.”

“Maybe I’m not at the level of last year when I was very strong and only two years out of the WorldTour, but I’m very happy with my current level.”

A must-have for every cycling enthusiast
With the Summer issue of RIDE you are optimally prepared for the coming cycling summer. In this edition there is also ample attention for the gravel scene. You can read an interview with Peter Stetina, who talks about his transition from the WorldTour to gravel pro and his collaboration with Canyon. In addition, you can also read what you can compare Unbound Gravel with in an article with Laurens ten Dam. Order your copy now!