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Going PRO: Ten Dam Discovers Gravel

11/02/2020

Laurens ten Dam has opted for more tyre clearance and adventures off the beaten track, after 17 years as a professional on the road. Much has changed for the popular Dutch rider, but his bike still features a PRO finishing kit.

After 17 years of racing his road bike around the world Laurens ten Dam decided to embark on a new adventure in 2020. The global Covid-19 pandemic may have kept him a little closer to home than he would have liked but none-the-less the popular Dutch rider wracked up the gravel miles. PRO Bikegear spoke to him about going gravel, life after the WorldTour and his finishing kit choices.

PRO: Tell us about the switch from the World Tour to gravel, specifically the freedom to choose your own calendar and go on adventure rides when you would previously have been doing intervals or racing?

Laurens ten Dam: Oh man. I must admit I liked the WorldTour most of the time. And if I didn’t anymore (in hindsight that was a cycle that repeated of every 5 years), I did something radical to get back my love for cycling. For example, in 2011 I ditched my powermeter after a disastrous year in 2010 and I had the best results of my career, UCI points wise. In 2016 I relocated to America. I lived for a year in the incredible city of Santa Cruz, California, where I once again rediscovered my love of cycling. It was there that I discovered mountain biking and gravel riding. It was glorious. So, in 2020 I decided to switch to focusing solely on fun part of gravel. I once again ditched the powermeter and I’m looking for adventures.

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PRO: Tell us about your gravel bike and components.

LtD: My Bike is the all new Specialized Diverge, equipped with all the PRO Discover goodies. I must admit they are great! Even on short rides the Top Tube Bag is always on my bike. After years of carrying as little as possible with me on rides I’m now enjoying the extra storage options provided by the Top Tube Bag. I use the PRO Discover Carbon handlebar, which has 20 degrees of flare, for improved control and the PRO Stealth Offroad saddle. As a roadie, I still use a 2 by drivetrain. My bike is fitted with the Shimano GRX Di2 drivetrain, which I chose because I like the bigger gear on the flats and the smaller steps in gearing, which helps me maintain a smooth cadence.

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PRO: Why did you choose the PRO Stealth Offroad saddle? Did you race with the Stealth road saddles before switching to gravel? 

LtD: I wish I had known about this saddle years before. I rode a lot of different saddles (my equipment sponsors seemed to change every year) throughout my career, so it felt like I was always getting used to a new saddle. I was forever getting saddle sores, which as you know are exceptionally unpleasant. Since I was introduced to the Stealth Saddles (I use the Stealth Superlight on my road bike) this is not the case anymore. Thus far I’ve done over 20 000km on and off-road with them and I haven’t had a single saddle sore! I am hooked.

PRO: Do you have any bike packing tricks to share? Little tips that make packing easier or how to get the most out of a PRO Discover bag?

LtD: Okay let’s go, I’ve got a few tricks to share. Always bring 1 or 2 tie-down straps. You often need to strap extra things to a Discover bag or adapt it to carry more. Plus, it’s a good idea to pack an extra bottle of wine too, it’s an adventure after all, and never forget your hip flask. Duct tape can be a trip saver too. You can use it to fix all manner of broken things with it; including badly cut sidewalls, on your tubeless tyres. Pack high fat foods. You’ll need the energy. Speaking of packing I stuff my sleeping gear in the Discover Handlebar Bag. It’s a completely water proof bag and I always pack my sleeping bag and bivy mat in there for bikepacking trips. You don’t want to sleep in a wet sleeping bag, do you? Actually, we made a vlog about this. Check it out.

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PRO: What’s your favourite PRO gravel product and why?

LtD: If I am honest, the Stealth Offroad saddle. You don’t want any saddle sores on a bike pack trip! That would ruin the adventure. 

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PRO: What’s your bucket list gravel race?

LtD: Before this year it would have been Kanza. But, now with Covid-19 I’m not sure if I will be able to get to the USA anytime soon. I think we will all have to look closer to home for adventures. So, I will make an effort to organising some cool stuff in Europe. Stay tuned!

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PRO: If you could go on a dream bike packing trip where would it be from and to, and who would you take with you?

LtD: My dream is to ride 3 weeks in a row in the French mountains, where I did so many Tour de Frances, with my two sons. They are now 5 and 8 so I have to wait a little bit still. In the meantime, we will keep practicing. This weekend I’ll be taking the youngest out on an 8km, 1 night, adventure. He will get the top tube bag and a PRO Saddle Bag strapped to his small mountain bike and we will camp in the woods, just the 2 of us. I can’t wait! I promised the oldest to find a more challenging destination, in the dunes near Bloemendaal, next week. He wanted the ride to be at least 40km long.

To follow Laurens ten Dam on all his gravel adventures and to see what “cool stuff in Europe” he has planned for his fellow gavel aficionados visit www.liveslowridefast.com. You can also follow him on Instagram, @laurens_ten_dam, and like his Facebook fan page, Laurens ten Dam, for regular updates.

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