Anyone who wants to be a professional cyclist will have to sacrifice a lot. It’s not easy. Training camps and races mean that you have less time for friends and family. You will always have to keep an eye on your diet. A couple of beers on a Friday night is probably not allowed.

But despite this spartan lifestyle, some riders exude pure joy — men and women who live for their bikes, but also know there is life beyond the saddle. Perhaps they win fewer races as a result of this, but they certainly become happier people as a result. Laurens ten Dam is a perfect example of this type of rider.

Laurens ten Dam waving to the crowd before departing on another stage of the Giro d’Italia. Credit: Cor Vos

Lust for life

As well as training like a trooper and riding all the major bike races, Ten Dam still manages to find time for his other passions in life. In 2018, he organised a gravel ride in Germany — this was part-festival, part-bike race. Enthusiasts came together to ride, eat and drink. Ten Dam also enjoys a beer now and again, and loves to go off on camping trips for a couple of weeks. In 2015, during a career dip, Ten Dam decided to go and live in the US for a year with his wife and kids — one of his many dreams. Ten Dam also has a fascinating podcast (if you understand Dutch) called Live Slow, Ride Fast. In one episode, he tells listeners how that adventure helped him rediscover his love for cycling.

Laurens ten dam

Ten Dam in Paris celebrating the end of the 2012 Tour de France in his own style. Credit: Cor Vos

Years at the top

It sounds like the dream life. Bike around, and enjoy life to the full on the side — what more could you want? However, Ten Dam must have endured a truly punishing training schedule to get where he has today. It’s a lifestyle most of us wouldn’t be able to handle. He has been at the top of cycling for many years and racing against the best riders, often to collapse after the finish, totally exhausted.

Ten Dam knows all about giving 110% for his sport. Credit: Cor Vos

Bau and Lau

2014 was a legendary year for Ten Dam and Dutch cycling. That was the year Ten Dam rode for Belkin  (now LottoNL–Jumbo) in the Tour de France, alongside Bauke Mollema. The latter was clearly leader, but Ten Dam also rode exceptionally well. This became know as the Tour of “Bau and Lau”, and was a race in which Ten Dam fought tooth and nail to achieve 9th place in the general classification. A phenomenal feat. Mollema finished 10th.

Ten Dam working as a domestique for Bauke Mollema. Credit: Cor Vos

It has to be admitted that the result was an exception to the rule. Laurens ten Dam doesn’t really have a very impressive set of victories to his name. He won 8th place in the Tour of Switzerland and 5th in the Tour Down Under. He also won the climber’s jersey in the 2009 edition of the Tour of Romandie, but that’s about it.

Alejandro Valverde, Laurens ten Dam, and Bauke Mollema during the 2014 Tour de France. Credit: Cor Vos

Master Domestique

Laurens ten Dam will primarily be remembered as a master domestique. He was at Tom Dumoulin‘s side when he won the Giro in 2017, and a couple of years before that he was also at Dennis Menchov’s side when he won the Giro as well. Ten Dam also knows how to really enjoy himself on these occasions and that’s perfect for the image we have of him. A true lover of life on a bicycle.

He’s riding at least one more year as a professional in 2019, for Greg van Avermaet’s CCC Team squad, so we can continue to watch him enjoying himself on two wheels.