The Amgen Tour of California is a home race of sorts for Laurens ten Dam (Giant-Alpecin). The Dutchman has spent most of his career in the Netherlands riding for dutch teams like Rabobank and Belkin, but he has spent a good chunk of 2016 living and training in Northern California.
"We wanted to live here for one year," ten Dam said. "In 2010, me and my wife went in a mobile home to tour all of California. We started in L.A., went down to San Diego and everything. When we got to Santa Cruz we were like, 'Oh man, if we could live here for a year it would be nice.' This was the right moment so we just did it."
Ten Dam has been a fixture in Santa Cruz for the last several months where he has been joining local group rides and posting photos of his Northern California Strava efforts. "It's good to be with the locals and mingle a little bit," ten Dam said. "It's a good cycling community in Santa Cruz."
So far it has been a quiet week for ten Dam. Giant-Alpecin has been focusing on team sprinter John Degenkolb, and ten Dam laughs when asked about his role in getting the team's lead-out train organized.
"We have a lot of other big powerhouses with us," ten Dam said. "I just follow the train."
Ten Dam's opportunities will come on the hillier stages of the race including stage 3 in Santa Barbara, stage 5 in South Lake Tahoe, and stage 6 in Santa Rosa. He is not familiar with the climb up Gibraltar Road but has ridden frequently around Tahoe and Santa Rosa. He recently left his base in Santa Cruz to train at altitude around the Lake Tahoe area.
"Tahoe I know and also Santa Rosa, but Laguna Seca I don't," ten Dam said. "They say it's hard but we'll see, those days you just follow the best guys.
Ten Dam is more animated when discussing stage 5, which finishes in South Lake Tahoe. Thursday's race finishes at Heavenly Ski Resort in South Lake Tahoe and goes over Kirkwood summit (3.9 km, 6.3% grade) and Carson Pass summit (4.7 km, 4.6% grade), which is the highest point in the race at 2,615 metres.
"know Luther, I know Carson, those are just long grinding climbs. I think it will be difficult racing at altitude for the other guys," ten Dam said. “I got an advantage because I lived there already for weeks now, and I go back there after the tour."
Ten Dam will return to California after his summer racing schedule but will return to Europe next spring so his children can go to school in their home country. Though his California journey will end next spring he plans on using the time to rack up more Strava KOMs and get ready for life after cycling.
"We stay for sure until next year until March but then the oldest goes to school in Holland," ten Dam said about post season plans."
With regard to his plans after racing he said, "I don't know but I'm thinking about setting up bicycle holidays or something like that."