Two weeks into the Tour de France, Strava Pro and LottoNL-Jumbo rider Laurens ten Dam provides an honest account of the race.
I have definitely had easier Tours. Apart from my shoulder injury, I was pretty much cooked before the second rest day because I got a chest infection. I’m on antibiotics now, but bronchitis was killing me. I did have a couple of silly crashes that didn’t help, but more than anything I was just suffering back in the peloton because with a problem like this, you don’t get the air you need. I hope I’ll be better now for the final week.
I’ve had some bad luck this year, but my legs were coming around in the Pyrenees and I really felt good on the harder climbs.
I could feel the same kind of power as I had at last year’s Tour and I felt like I was cruising on a lot of the steeper gradients, so my condition is good. I hope it stays like this!
After Stage 16 I got to go to bed early and sleep in a little the next morning, which helped with the illness. My rest day ride was relaxed, and my parents were camping nearby so I went to see them and have a coffee. We were lucky to have our hotel very close to the finish, so we ate at a good time and had some more time to relax and unwind. During a stage race, that can make all the difference. Some days it can be after 9:30pm before we have dinner, and that’s far from ideal when you’re trying to recover and be in perfect shape for the next morning.
When you’re recovering, it can be hard because it’s like being in a waiting room. You’re just sitting there on standby until the body gets better. But I’m lucky because the guys have kept me going and the atmosphere in the team is still brilliant. We’ve all been hanging out after dinner, chatting and joking and I think we’re all happy to have a good leader to ride for. Now I need to get into some breakaways and help Robert Gesink. I wanted to do more in the Pyrenees, but once the weather changed my lungs just couldn’t cope because of my infection. It’s always so hard to know how you’ll perform in the alps, but I’m confident. Once I don’t get sick again and I avoid the kind of stupid crashes that have hurt me, I think I’ll be up there.
Part of what makes a Grand Tour so special is that it only takes one stage to change everything and turn it into something special.
It doesn’t have anything to do with me, but I think it’s a shame that the racing this year has been a little overshadowed by negativity. I was really sad to see the reaction to Chris Froome’s performance and all that’s happened to him. I think it’s disgusting. It’s not part of our sport and I hope people stop booing him and throwing things. If it happened to me I’d go crazy! I’d be really upset if I was a Sky rider.
People shouldn’t just assume everyone who performs well is cheating.
I had a really hard time after Rabobank’s problems and I chose to do something about it. Last year I published a book with a Dutch journalist called Robin van der Kloor. He followed me for a season, he had access to my biological passport data and he travelled with me to races and training camps. He even shared everything with an anti-doping expert at a university. I wanted to show my fans and the Dutch public that not everyone was a cheater and that they could trust me.
That’s why I like to put all my rides on Strava – so people can see how hard I work. People should remember that.
It’s funny when you hear people criticising riders and saying that it’s impossible to climb a big mountain pass so quickly. If I didn’t ride around 34,000 kilometres a year, in all kinds of weather, even when I’m sick or in pain, I might think like that too. Hopefully the last week can be more cheerful and we can end the race talking about good things. Moving back to my Tour, aside from the Alps I’m really looking forward to Paris because my wife will be there at the finish for the first time in three years. The kids will be back in the Netherlands, so we’ll get to spend some time together and have a romantic night out. After that, the whole family is going camping for a week or two with some friends.
My racing calendar for the rest of the year should be straightforward: some crits and after that just focus on the Vuelta a España. I want to do a top-10 at a Grand Tour this year and I think the Vuelta suits my style. Finishing the year with a good result would mean the world to me.
In case you missed the Tour de France rest day update from Lauren’s Ten Dam, read it here.
Photos from Gruber Images.