He hasn’t competed in more than five years, but on Saturday Thomas Dekker will compete in the 200 mile Unbound Gravel event in Kansas.
Such a challenge is intimidating enough even for the current crop of WorldTour riders on display this weekend, but Dekker’s arrival in the United States is entirely on his own after betting his friend and competitor Laurens ten Dam that he could beat him.
This claim seems somewhat unlikely given Ten Dam entering Unbound Gravel following a convincing victory at Gravel Locos last month, but the two Dutch friends travel together to the United States and rekindle a friendship that stretches back to the end. 1990s. and their first forays into racing as children.
“I hadn’t ridden a bike in four years, but I made a bet with Laurens on a podcast and said if I worked out for a while I could easily beat him,” said Dekker. Cycling news from the passenger seat of Ten Dam’s van as the couple drove into Kansas.
“We were just talking shit, but I was 90kg at the time and at the time I was around 68kg. I became a big guy, but last year we got stuck and started to ride more and more, ”Dekker said. “I lost weight and we had a good group of friends driving around Amsterdam.
“Laurens was already preparing for gravel events in the US and Europe so I started training. It all started out as a joke and now we’re here again, together, like the good old days. We started in 1998 together, in the same little club and now we’re in America and cycling. “
Dekker’s last outing as a racing kit came with a failed UCI hour record attempt in 2015 – a year after hanging up his road wheels during the 2014 Tour of Beijing.
“So it’s been over six years since I did something like a run. I feel healthy. I mean I won’t weigh 68-69kg, but we are going to ride a bike and have fun. . This is the most important thing. “
Dekker seeks to balance a friendly competitive spirit with the fact that this is his first race in over half a decade. Not a gravel specialist, he will rely on his natural abilities, enthusiasm and maybe a bit of luck given the obstacles that await him in a 200 mile race of this nature. He has little hope of finishing in the top ten, however. One thing is certain that the 36-year-old knows he is going to suffer.
“Saturday is going to be a race, and it’s going to be tough. There is a very high level but I think I can do a top ten. I think the level that is in my body but these WorldTour riders have a lot more kilometers in their legs. I’ve never ridden a bicycle for ten hours, so I’m curious to see how my body reacts. There is going to be pain, like it used to be, “he said. Cycling news.
“Even though it’s going to be the hardest race of my life, it’s still going to be fun. It’s always a luxury to be in a position where you can do the things you love. People can see it. there is so much passion for the sport and they have been very welcoming to me. “