Laurens ten Dam, a professional cyclist, wants to give cycling a new style of coaching, in which the pressure of competition does not at odds with knowing how to enjoy life
Laurens ten Dam has taken the essence of coaching to all facets of his life, although his career as a professional cyclist has not allowed him to enjoy a specific education until now. The Dutchman will be one of those to complete his Master in Coaching degree from the Johan Cruyff Institute this year, which is something he had pending and decided to carry out when, at 35, his days in the peloton of the cycling elite are coming to an end. ‘Live slow, ride fast’ has always been his motto in life, the leitmotif that has accompanied him during his career as a professional athlete and the message he wants to continue transmitting to new generations.
Laurens, who is admired by his teammates at Team Sunweb for his charisma, enjoys a way of doing things that sets him apart from the rest. Cycling has always been characterized for being one of the toughest and most demanding sports not only physically, but also mentally. Endless stages, grueling mountain passes, many hours pedaling when the mind demands a little more and the body suffers, and very little recovery time. He says he has found a way to “bend the rules, without breaking the law”, which for him means not doing things as they have always been done, but because they work for you.
Ten Dam, top 10 in the 2014 Tour de France, is preparing for his retirement and what a way to do it. He is the editor-in-chief of the magazine BicyclingNL, he has his own events management company that organizes mountain bike trips in which you can enjoy cycling and friends, and now he has a new challenge on the horizon: to work as a coach of elite cyclists “to help them better find the balance between managing pressure and enjoying this beautiful sport that is cycling, like when they started”. It has worked pretty well for him.
On your team website it says: “During his career, Ten Dam has become a well-known figure to cycling fans due to his alternative way of living, his boundless commitment whenever he’s on the bike and his complete pureness when he’s off the bike.” How do you describe yourself?
I would say I’m a guy who strives to get the best out of himself in all different ways. So, on the bike, I’m really focused on performing really hard but, off the bike too, in my family life and with friends. I do things my way. I bend the rules, not the law. I don’t reject things because that’s how we’ve always done it. I find my own path, but still striving for the best possible result for me. For example, living in the USA and racing in Europe had never been done by a European cyclist, but why not? I could be the best dad possible and the best rider possible at the same time. I bent the rules, but not the law.
What are your first memories of cycling?
Riding my strider bike next to the canal in Holland where we lived on a houseboat.
If you weren’t a cyclist, what would you have been?
I would have travelled around a lot in my van. With the kids, and enjoying life as I do now, having a good barbeque and a nice beer. I’d probably be employed in the sports business, because that’s my passion.
What is the best lesson that cycling has given you in life?
Never break the law, but bend the rules. Do things your way and, if you do that, you can be proud of your career.
What is harder for you: to climb a mountain in the Tour de France or to make yourself a future in coaching?
Haha. Mountains are tough…
What does a good coach need to have, in your opinion?
Commitment. 100%. As a coach you feel that. If there is no commitment, it isn’t going to work.
What motivates you now in your daily work as an almost-coach? (What do you get out of it yourself?)
I’m really proud to see improvement in my athletes/colleagues. That makes my day. If I make somebody do a physical test after a hard block of training where I have to encourage them a lot and it works out even better than expected, that makes my day.
What will be your added value as a cycling coach?
To give my athletes the balance between living slow and riding fast. It’s easy in cycling to be too focused on small details. I have to protect the bigger picture and make sure my athletes still enjoy what they’re doing while the pressure can be really high. That’s always a challenge and I’ve been in those situations too.
How do you see yourself in five years?
I won’t race myself anymore. I’ll have a lot of great family time. I’ll have a company that organizes gravel rides with camping, barbeques, beer, etc. But I’ll also top-level coach athletes and help them to manage the balance between the pressure and why they started this beautiful sport in the first place.
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