This weekend, Laurens ten Dam will embark on the daunting prospect of racing both the Leadville 100 and SBT GRVL, and, although winning the double is not part of his ambitions, the former WorldTour star is hoping to be competitive in both events.
Ten dam has taken part in just one mountain bike race before - Leadville back in 2016 when a crash took him out of the race - but his gravel skills make him a major favourite for Sunday’s SBT GRVL.
He won Gravel Locos earlier this year and was second in Unbound Gravel behind Ian Boswell but, with next to no recovery between this weekend's races, the Dutchman knows that he will be up against fresher opposition on Sunday.
"Why come all the way to the US for one race when you can do two?" Ten Dam told Cyclingnews after arriving in the US last week and making the drive to Leadville.
"The body feels good, though. Originally I planned to stay in the US for five weeks, from the Belgian Waffle Ride all the way until this weekend, but my wife and kids weren’t allowed in the US so we had a family holiday in France but now I’m here for two weeks. I’m feeling good and I’m not afraid of this weekend because I’m used to racing stage races in my career. So two days in a row must be possible."
Ten Dam's limited mountain bike experience means he is cautious when it comes to predicting his performance in Leadville, which is regarded as one of the toughest off-road races on the calendar.
"I don’t know many of the mountain bike guys. I remember five years ago in 2016 when early in the race a guy attacked and I thought ‘who the fuck is this?’ and it turned out to be Todd Wells, the winner," he recalled.
"I have no clue but I’ll try and stay with the first group and then we’ll see how it pans out in the end. Last time I was at the race I crashed in a downhill and my race was over but I’ve seen some of the parcours and I feel more prepared than I did five years ago.
"I’ve only done one mountain bike race once in my life, which was Leadville five years ago. So I’m not a big mountain biker but Specialized set me up and I’ve had four rides on that bike now. I hope that’s sufficient and then I know that I’m capable of doing well on Sunday in SBT. I’ll be racing my 42s and I think that I’ve adapted to the altitude, so I’m ready to rock this weekend."
The likes of Colin Strickland and Ian Boswell – two of the strongest gravel racers in the men’s circuit – are dialling their weekend focus in on SBT GRVL alone and skipping Leadville. That could provide the US pair with an advantage over Ten Dam, Peter Stetina and the EF Education-Nippo pair of Lachlan Morton and Alex Howes, who are racing events back-to-back.
"They have a slight advantage. I rode with Colin and he looks to be a better level than before and I raced with Ian in Kenya, where he was really strong. I don’t know how his training has gone but I had to back off a bit with my family holiday but it’s just incredible scenery up here," Ten Dam said.
"For me the mountain bike race is impossible to win but I’ll try and do the best that I can. Then with SBT I’ll try and do the best that I can and recover. If I race how was this year, then I’ll be a contender. If I have the same legs that I had a few weeks ago then I’ll be in contention."
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