Transition: From pro racer to pro adventurer with Laurens ten Dam

On October 13, 2019, the day after the Tour of Lombardy, five friends, four bikes and one support car traveled from Como to Siena in just two days. For Laurens ten Dam it was his first day as an ex-professional cyclist, and his first day of life as a pro adventurer. We asked him some questions about the trip and the transition. Here’s what he had to say about the life changes ahead.

To mark the transition from pro to adventure cyclist, you decided to make a film, Transit, about the adventure. Although the film is focused on your ride, you’re not the only face we see. Who else joined you on this ride? 

Transit was a symbolic journey for me, assisted by Stefan Bolt, Sam Oomen, Dennis Bruin and Vincent Moes. 

Stefan hosts the Live Slow Ride Fast podcast with me. He loves cycling facts and is always looking for the best of the best in terms of gear, clothing, etc. That’s why we call him Mr. Shortcut. During our transit ride, we called him the weekend warrior. 

Sam Oomen a.k.a. the Comeback Kid is a professional cyclist for Team Sunweb. He’s a promising young rider but has recently had surgery. Despite the setback, he’s determined to take his cycling career to greater heights. 

Dennis Bruin, or Hussle Dennis for insiders, took care of all the logistics on the trip: He was the support car driver, as well as the photographer and mechanic. He can do everything. And when it was all taken care of, he immediately jumped on the bike too. 

Vincent Moes was our one-man film crew for this trip. He had drones hanging from cars and roaming through traffic. For Vincent nothing is too crazy when it comes to getting that one beautiful shot.

How did you plan the route from Como to Siena?

Stefan planned the route on komoot. And I made some adjustments to it while lying in bed waiting for the start of Lombardy. I had a few special wishes, one being to visit the Cinque Terre, even though that meant a detour of about 31 miles (50 kilometers).

Did you have any unnerving moments on the way?

There were definitely some scary moments, especially in the dark in the last hours before our arrival in Lecchi. I dare say that I’m a pretty experienced rider, but I was afraid that Stefan would descend boldly and not take the Italian driving style into account. Italians aren’t used to running into cyclists at that time of day! But everything went well.

Any memorable parts of the route?

I found the Cinque Terre a real Highlight. So beautiful, so rugged. And of course, on the emotional side was the arrival in Lecchi. The whole village was waiting for us and we were so happy that we succeeded.

What makes cycling in Tuscany special?

Cycling in Tuscany is never the same, there is a new panorama around every bend. And then there are those villages where time seems to have stood still. But the best thing is, wherever you stop, you can always expect great food and drinks. And that is perfect when you’re on a trip like this – you are permanently hungry!

What ingredients should an awesome adventure on the bike consist of? And were they included in this ride?

The ingredients for a beautiful ride are primarily a varied route and good company. But to make a ride memorable, you also need a little bit of epicness: A crazy long distance for example, or pieces of the route that really surprise you, and force you out of your comfort zone. 

During our Transit ride, we got all of that.  According to komoot, the distance we wanted to cover would take us somewhere between five – eight days. We made it a goal to do it in two. Then you know that everyone will have to dig deep and that will bring you closer together. Real suffering takes away all your boundaries and inhibitions. Nevertheless, five days and a little more “Live Slow” would have been nice.

Who made the decisions on this ride and did it go well?

I think I made all the decisions, except where it was about camera angles and shots. It was my personal wish to make this journey to mark the end of my professional cycling career. The fact that we only had two days was also because of me. I wanted to be back in time for my son’s birthday.

We’ve heard you came up with a rating system for komoot. How did it fair? 

We had this thing where we would give komoot performance points: +10 or +20 if we were pleasantly surprised by a great goat trail or a road that we would otherwise never have found ourselves. But sometimes also -10 if we had to climb some stairs on that same phenomenal route, or came across a long hike-a-bike segment. Then we sometimes cursed the route, haha. But it is precisely through those moments that you know that you’re doing something special. Something that not everyone does.

How do you look back on this ride?

This ride was an emotional roller coaster for me. My last race as a professional cyclist was done and we celebrated Bauke Mollema’s (a friend and former teammate) victory that same evening. Who would have dared to dream that? It was followed by two days of enjoying this beautiful part of Italy: The scenery, extensive meals, and each other’s stories from the day: Where did you have a hard time? Who dropped who? And then that magical arrival in the village of Lecchi in Chianti, where my manager Joāo was waiting for us. It made the trip complete.

What will your next adventure be?

We’ve already had two adventures with komoot since Italy! First a gravel adventure in Morocco, where the language barrier and other circumstances really forced us to trust the komoot route and navigation. That went great. 

Next, we traveled to the hills of Girona, where – as an ex-professional – I thought I had already ridden every road. Well, I certainly had not! We worked hard, and komoot rewarded us with the most beautiful gravel paths.

In 2020 you’ll step up as an official komoot ambassador. What is it about komoot that makes it something you’re willing to put your name behind?

The biggest advantage of komoot is actually the surprise element. You just go to places where you normally don’t go. It’s as if you always have a local with you, telling you that behind that one church there is a fence to a beautiful goat path, which then changes to a long-distance route and leads back through the fields. The ease with which you can create and share the route is a real plus. You can learn from each other and easily share your routes.

You can follow Laurens on komoot here.

All photos © Dennis Bruin