Laurens Ten Dam (Rabobank) came to this year’s Amgen Tour of California for the mountains. The Dutch climber set out to chase stage results in the race’s two mountain-top finishes. In this goal, he has largely succeeded.
“I came here to try and do well in the two mountain stages. I was eighth on Sierra Rd. and third today, so I did well this week,” he commented to Cyclingnews after Saturday’s mountainous stage to the 6500 foot summit of Mount Baldy.
Ten Dam also finished the day sixth in the general classification.
“I think I did a good job and the team is happy,” he said. The Amgen Tour of California is an important race for the Dutch squad, whose Rabobank sponsor has extensive interests in California. In fact the Paso Robles stage finished nearly on the front doorstep of a Rabobank office.
On the first uphill finish of the race in San Jose, Ten Dam finished 1:45 behind Chris Horner, who did a huge ride on the steep Sierra Rd climb, and just 30 seconds behind second-placed rider Andy Schleck. That result was a happy surprise after Ten Dam began the stage feeling less than perfect.
“[In San Jose] I was suffering from the beginning. I felt not that good,” he said of the fast racing on Wednesday’s stage 4. But on the early slopes of Mount Hamilton, Ten Dam found his legs and rode up through the field to the front. “I found myself in the first twenty pretty easily and a lot of guys had stopped already, so I was thinking it was okay for me,” he said. The Rabobank rider reached the final climb in the front group and set for a high stage placing.
Sierra Road rises relentlessly from the valley floor, and there is no space for recovery. Ten Dam said.
“The last climb was just go hard from the start.” A climb like Sierra Road does not offer much space for tactical thinking, and the severe gradients left their mark on Ten Dam’s legs. “I felt bad all afternoon, because of all the suffering. I dug pretty deep,” he said of his effort.
During the complicated stage from Seaside to Paso Robles, Ten Dam made it to the finish safely with the front group. He rode the Solvang time trial without significant ambitions, saying before his start that it was not a stage for the climbers. He finished nineteenth at 1:34 behind winner David Zabriskie of Garmin-Cervélo. “For me, the most important days are like today’s stage,” he said.
On Saturday as the lead group detonated on the brutish gradients of Mount Baldy, Ten Dam reached the final four kilometers in an elite group that included race leader Chris Horner and eventual stage winner Levi Leipheimer. RadioShack stand-out Matthew Busche rode on the front in support of his team-mates. “We told him to punch it, and he punched it one more time,” said Chris Horner after the stage.
Ten Dam could not follow the final attack from the RadioShack riders, but he ably defended his third position on the road. Ten Dam finished 43 seconds behind race winner Levi Leipheimer. “I am happy with this result, third is good, but you always want a little more. The other two old guys are just too strong,” he concluded.
Loving the racing in California
This year marks Ten Dam’s first visit to the Amgen Tour of California. He had originally planned to come to California last year, but an ill-timed crash derailed his Spring season. “This is the first year for me, I love the state,” he said. Though he did not race last year, he did take a three-week vacation in California.
“Last year, I traveled three weeks in an RV with my wife. I’ve seen a lot here in California. It’s like coming home, maybe. This December, I came here training for one month. I love it here,” he said.
Ten Dam’s next race is the mountainous Tour de Suisse, which should suit his climber characteristics. He is also slated to ride the Tour de France, where he will support Rabobank’s general classification rider, Robert Gesink in the mountains and look for an opportunity to chase a mountain stage win.