Strava Pro and LottoNL-Jumbo rider Laurens ten Dam took some time on the first rest day to reflect on the first week of the Tour de France.
LTD Rider Journal: So far, this Tour de France has been a little bit frustrating. I’m feel like I’m getting better day by day, but I have to admit that I was really looking forward to the rest day after Stage 9. This Tour didn’t start in the best way for me, but we still have two weeks left and having some time off has been really good in terms of getting back some motivation and refocussing myself on the mountains where I’m at my best.
Starting in the Netherlands was really special, but on the other hand it was really stressful with all of the fans and the narrow roads. It was a once in a lifetime experience to do the prologue in Utrecht as a Dutch rider, with so many supporters there, cheering for you.
My wife and son came to see me the day before the prologue, which was great because now I won’t see them until Paris. I know that there were friends and family on the side of the road too, but you’re going way to fast to recognise anyone!
It was great for it to be there in my country, but personally I’d prefer not to start abroad every year.
When you cross the border, it just hits you – the Tour de France belongs in France.
Things in the peloton calmed down a bit once we were back on French roads because it feels like being back to normal.
My parents follow me every year, and speaking with them on the rest day after a hard first week was really nice because when things aren’t going your way you need that support. If you’re in a flow, you might not need that kind of support, but obviously I haven’t been in a good flow the last nine days so getting some family time was great.
I suppose a lot of people were wondering why I continued after the bad crash on Stage Three, but I’ve been building to this for so long that I couldn’t just give up. I’ve been training hard for months, and in a lot of ways my preparation actually began last summer in Paris at the finish line, so retiring from the race before it even reached France just wasn’t an option for me.
We were going pretty fast when it happened. I saw something on the righthand side of the road, I started to brake and steered to the left, I thought I could manage, but then the guy in front of me had the same idea. I touched his back wheel and that was that. In those kinds of situations there’s not a lot you can do.
Everyone has to work so hard for the Tour, so it’s not nice to see riders like Fabian Cancellara have to retire while wearing the yellow jersey. But it was the same for Tom Dumoulin – he’s my training buddy and it sucks that he’s at home. Same crash, same injury, so I feel so lucky that I’m still here.
When I hit the ground, my first reaction was that something was definitely broken because I was in so much pain, but once I found out that my shoulder was dislocated, I just thought:
Pop it back in and give me my bike.
I didn’t want to be back on my couch after just a few days at the Tour. I train on those roads, so it was too close to home. I couldn’t quit.
It’s hard to explain, what it feels like when you’re laying there. At the beginning it’s all negative and you’re focussing on the pain, but after a few minutes I was just shouting at the team director: “Get my bike back off the car!” I saw them putting the bike away – they were trying to put me in an ambulance – but I knew I could move and that I wanted to continue.
The cobbles the next day didn’t make life any easier, and it was 223km, the longest stage in this year’s race. I knew I was going to be in a lot of pain, but once I stayed in the group I knew I’d make the time cut so I just hung in there over the cobbles and rode my own tempo to the finish. Now I need to put it behind me, I’m still in the race and I believe I can still do something special. It’s time to shine.
Staying motivated after such a difficult start is the hardest thing for me now. To be good in the mountains you need to believe in yourself and have plenty of confidence. Last year, I was high in the GC and I had lots to fight for. The trick now is to just refocus on those mountain stages. I have to support my team leader and work hard, but I’ve discussed it with the team and I know I’ll have my own opportunities to try something and get in the break.
Despite everything that’s happened, I still feel good and I’m really happy about that. The TTT was short and it was right before the rest day, so now I’m pretty fresh and I hope to have a great couple of weeks now.
The atmosphere in the team is great. Wilco Kelderman, Steven Kruijswijk and I are all in a similar position. We all want to do something good now and everyone’s hoping that Robert Gesink can keep going and achieve a top GC result. He’s been able to stay out of trouble and crashes so far, which is great for him, and the rest of us can hunt for some stage wins and try to do something in the mountains.
We’re all really positive. It’s not like last year because we already had a stage win and Bauke Mollema and I were going so well. But that’s cycling. It never goes your way all the time. What counts is that you keep trying.
Follow Laurens ten Dam as he climbs his way into the second half of the Tour de France.
Photos from Gruber Images.