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Laurens ten Dam retires and switches to off-road adventure riding

Dutchman concludes 17-year career to focus on endurance gravel racing

Joe Robinson
18 Oct 2019

Laurens ten Dam will be the latest pro road rider to turn his attention to gravel racing as he retires at the end of the season. In the same week that Taylor Phinney took early retirement from racing hinting he would turn to endurance gravel riding, Ten Dam stated he would pursue similar adventures after calling time on his 17-year career.

'I still really like being on the bike and, in the days immediately following Il Lombardia, I will be making a big trip towards the south of Italy. That will be an exciting moment for me as I will immediately be starting the change from pro cyclist to adventure rider,' Ten Dam wrote in an open letter on the CCC Team website.

'It's this kind of thing that I'm aiming to do in the future to replace professional cycling but fulfil my love for the bike. For example, I would like to do races like Dirty Kanza, Cape Epic, maybe a crazy bike-packing race. It'll be cool.'

In his later years as a pro, the 38-year-old openly dialled down the amount he trained on the road, swapping tarmac for gravel after living in the USA for a brief period.

So much was his enjoyment for riding off-road Ten Dam even established his own gravel sportive 'LTD Gravel Raid' that takes place in his native Netherlands.

Since completing his final race in Lombardy last Saturday, Ten Dam has been riding south through Italy, both on and off-road, as part of a touring trip.

Known as the 'Wolf Man', Ten Dam was probably best known for a dramatic crash at the 2011 Tour de France which saw the rider complete the stage with a large bandage wrapped across his face.

However, it is worth remembering that the former Rabobank rider was for a long time the biggest Dutch hope for Grand Tour glory until the emergence of Tom Dumoulin, something that he admits he never expected.

'I didn't necessarily expect to ride the Tour de France when I turned pro, but things were on the rise for me and I was actually 21st in my first Tour,' said Ten Dam.

'It was really nice to be racing in the big leagues and, from then on, the Tour was the race that I built my year around. My fame in Holland, and cycling in general, also started to grow from there because everyone was watching the Tour, and on several occasions, I was the best Dutch rider there.

'The Tour de France is my favourite of the three Grand Tours. It was the race that I always watched as a small kid and it was my dream race. I reached Paris 10 times, finishing inside the top 10 on the GC in 2014, and I'm proud of that.'

Ten Dam then went on to be one of the world's top domestiques, proving instrumental in Dumoulin's 2017 Giro d'Italia victory, an experienced roll he may bring back to cycling in the future.

'It's nice to know that people see me as someone they want to learn from, someone to look up to and get advice from,' said Ten Dam.

'I have also done a Master's degree in coaching so, while I'm not planning on doing anything like that next year, maybe there could be something there in the future.'