Exclusive interview: Ten Dam to combine US and European programmes

'It will make me a better rider if I can do some crits and get my ass kicked'

Laurens ten Dam's one year deal with Giant Alpecin signifies a bold new step in the veteran rider's career, and one that will see him compete on both sides of the Atlantic in 2016.

Having left Lotto Jumbo this year, the former Tour de France top-10 finisher was keen to dovetail a race programme in the US with major European events mixed in. Giant Alpecin, who have shifted focus and will have a more all-round team with objectives in the sprints and in stage races, stepped in and offered ten Dam the chance he had been looking for.

Although his race programme has yet to be fully defined – and may rely on UCI rules that govern WorldTour riders competing in US domestic races – ten Dam believes that the switch will work.

"There were quite a few pluses from my point of view as to why I've gone there," he told Cyclingnews on the eve of his transfer being made official.

"Sometimes when you're looking for the ideal scenario it takes a little bit longer and this has turned out to be ideal for me and the team. It's all come together in the end."

Ten Dam's long association with LottoNL-Jumbo dates back to their Rabobank days and in that time the Dutch rider firmly established himself as one of their most consistent performers in three-week races. However, and by his own admission, this year's Tour de France was a disappointment with a finish outside of the top 80 places in GC. That, coupled with a training crash in which he was hit by a vehicle, led him to reassess his ambitions in both his life and his profession.

"Things changed quite a bit for me after this year's Tour de France. Ten days after the race a car drove into the back of me. That changed my perspective on a few things and I realised that I could have died or been paralysed for the rest of my life," he said.

Since the accident he has made a full recovery and, with his agent, he has set about making his dream of being based in the US, while still racing an international programme, a reality.

"My dream was always to live or spend time in the US for a period of my life so I told my agent to see if there were opportunities out there for me.

"Giant came and they have given me that chance. At first I was looking at only doing domestic racing in the US but I still want to do a good Tour de France as I've still got something left in my legs. In the end we could combine something that's perfect, with a US programme and races in Europe."

Ten Dam's complete race programme has yet to be determined, and he and his team will need to sit down in the coming weeks and decide on the best course for both parties. Ten Dam still believes that he can return to the Tour de France and use both his legs and his experience to help Giant gain the best result possible – whether it's through him or the team’s two young hopes, Tom Dumoulin and Warren Barguil.

"We have to find a race programme that works. Maybe it will make me a better rider if I can do some crits and get my ass kicked. Maybe it'll be good for me if I'm there sprinting out of every corner, but I don't know yet how my race plan will come together. I think that this also works for my family too and I think they'll enjoy the vibe of the nice US people. We've talked about this before, as a family, of doing a year in the US and this is the right moment for us."

Giant-Alpecin have certainly changed their focus for next year, with the departure of Marcel Kittel to Etixx-QuickStep allowing them to align their roster with a more complete set of targets. John Degenkolb will still be their rider for the sprints and early spring Classics, while the emergence of Dumoulin and Barguil in the last few seasons provides the team with new opportunities in stage races.

"Marcel Kittel leaves the team and now they're going to focus a bit more on GC with guys like Dumoulin and Barguil. I think they wanted an experienced climber this year, and they didn't need that role in the past maybe, but I think that I can help them build a train in the mountains like they have in the sprints. I'm almost 35 so I don't know how long I can hang onto these guys but I wanted to give everything for one more year and then maybe something will evolve for longer."

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