The book "Laurens ten Dam" was launched in a packed coffee and bike shop on Tuesday in The Hague by writer Robin van der Kloor and Ten Dam himself. “It’s not an autobiography though,” Ten Dam told Cyclingnews. “It’s a story of how I became proud to be a professional bike rider again after all the doping stories of last winter.”
The book starts in October of 2012 when the USADA report came out. In the Netherlands this cascaded into a waterfall of doping publications, numerous tv appearances by cycling journalists, documentaries and confessions by former riders like Michael Boogerd and Danny Nelissen. Rabobank ended its sponsorship of the Dutch cycling team of which Ten Dam has been a member since 2008 and the public’s opinion of the sport was at an all-time low.
“The whole atmosphere around cycling was very negative at the time. Everybody was talking about doping. Even when I was at the baker’s people would tell me I probably was on EPO too. When I started as a pro cyclist at age 22 I was proud as punch that I was a professional bike rider. In 2012 I rode all the major races like the Tour de France and Vuelta, I even finished eighth in Spain but I didn’t feel proud anymore.”
Van der Kloor and Ten Dam wrote the book to show what it’s like to be a pro cyclist. “I wanted to tell the story of what it takes to do what I do. It’s not about doping, though you can’t leave it out either. I am not going to beat around the bush about the subject but 2007, the year of Rasmussen’s Tour, is already six years ago. We can’t keep recycling these stories. That might not be politically correct, but I am not like that anyways,” he said with a smile.
Ten Dam started his career in 2004 with the small Dutch Bankgiroloterij team before moving on to Shimano for a season and then Unibet.com for two seasons. In 2008 he signed with Rabobank and extended that contract with the now Belkin team for two years last summer.
“I was probably lucky that I was talented enough at the beginning of my career. I didn’t need anything to get good results and to remain a pro cyclist. Nowadays, it also does seem to be easier for me to get good results,” he commented on his place in the current peloton.
Ten Dam’s highlights of last season were the Tour de France stages to Ax 3 Domaines [5th place] and to Mont Ventoux [9th]. “But I am even more proud of how I got there. It took some hard work to end up where I ended up. My wife Thessa, son Jens and I went on training camp to the Alpes together, on our own in our old Chevy Van. If all that hard work leads to great results, that makes me proud.”
The efforts of Ten Dam and Bauke Mollema, who finished 13th and 6th in the Tour de France respectively, sparked a renewed enthusiasm for cycling in the Netherlands. “I am happy that we could give cycling back to the people. I am happy that people see the sport in a positive light again. That’s also the span of the book. We go from a very negative vibe around cycling in October 2012 to the positive Mollema and Ten Dam-mania after the Tour. And if I see so many people at this book launch where Michael Rasmussen had only three people showing up in his hometown, that makes me happy again.”
When Ten Dam looks ahead to next season he doesn’t plan on changing anything. “In the past I was the guy who volunteered to ride the Tour of Flanders but not anymore. I know what I can do and after 10 years on the cycling scene there is not much more to change. The season will probably be more or less the same with the Ardennes Classics, Tour and Vuelta as highlights. I hope to do top-10 in the Tour.”
Ten Dam just signed on for two more years with Team Belkin but the rider who turns 33 today thinks about his future, too. “My dream, or even more so my wife’s dream, would be to live in Santa Cruz and ride for a small American team to do Tour of California, Tour of Colorado etc. but for now I am a bike rider on a European team. I already started to train again for next season. I am proud of my job again, and that’s what matters most."