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From YouTuber to the pro peloton: Bas Tietema second chance at racing

Bas Tietema was once a promising junior but became a YouTube star when his career didn't work out. Now he has a second chance and he's loving it.

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Bas Tietema’s journey to a pro contract has been an unusual one.

Anyone who watched Kuurne-Brussel-Kuurne will have seen the Dutchman out in the early breakaway, and possibly head a little bit of his story.

This time last year, Tietema was fully focused on his Tour de Tietema YouTube channel where he has racked up close to 200,000 subscribers for his entertaining cycling-themed content. Last Sunday, however, he was lining up for his first-ever Belgian classic for the Bingoal Pauwels Sauces ProTeam.

It has been a wild ride for the 27-year-old, who made his pro debut at the Tour of Antalya in early February, and he’s still getting to grips with his new life as a professional cyclist.

“It’s been already quite a journey and it all started around September, October. I improved already a lot and I’m still improving,” he told VeloNews ahead of Kuurne on Sunday. “It’s really hard to say what my ambition is specifically because everything’s still very new.

“We will see race by race, but I have a really nice program for the next three weeks, some of the highest levels, like here, and also races on a bit lower 1.1 level where I can ride even more like a real final. I have to be realistic. Even on our team, the best riders can’t do a really good final, as you saw [at Omloop], when Tiesj Benoot and Wout van Aert go it’s next level.”

Tietema is not a complete rookie when it comes to racing after enjoying a relatively successful career as a junior rider, racing with the BMC Development Team, and finishing on the podium of Paris-Roubaix Espoirs in 2014. However, he struggled with illness and lost motivation for the sport, and ultimately stepped away from it only a few years after that result.

Though he chose to stick with the sport through his YouTube channel, he was not looking to use it as a way back into racing. However, getting two of his friends into racing reignited the bug he’d once had for it and a conversation with Bingoal — who sponsors his content — saw him back in a peloton.

“I had it already out of my head it the focus was really on creating with the YouTube channel and a new combination of entertainment journalism in cycling,” he said. “It all started with COVID that the two other guys I was making the videos with bought a bike. They made videos about cycling, but they never rode a bike.

“So, I introduced them into the sport. We went to some amateur races and in the end, I got the feeling for it again. That was the moment I said before the winter I need to have like a goal in mind and then I would like to go for it. We spoke with the team and then it all started.”

Finding a video-race balance

Tietema is still creating his YouTube content while he takes on this new challenge and is charting his time with the Bingoal Pauwels Sauces squad. It’s not just him making the videos these days and he can rely on the help of his two colleagues to produce the content and free up more of his time to train and race.

“There was a discussion before because when I wanted to go fully for cycling, I also needed to go like 100 percent,” Tietema said. “It’s not that tonight I’m editing, I have a whole team behind me that is making the videos so that’s the reason why we can do this. It’s something that next to my physical capacities I’m really proud of. I’ve created such an environment that I can fully focus on cycling but next to that we can inspire and make good videos, I think, for cycling.”

As Tietema predicted, he wasn’t involved in the final of Kuurne-Brussel-Kuurne but making it into the breakaway had been his primary ambition for the day and so he could be happy with achieving that.

His forthcoming races at events such as the Visit Friesland Elfsteden Race, the Ronde van Drenthe, and the GP de Denain will allow him to settle into the pace of pro life without the same pressure as the “opening weekend.”

He is taking the races as they come and doesn’t know if this season is a one-off or if it could turn into something more.

“If I look one year further it is already quite a long way,” he said. “We’re looking to right now, almost week to week, maybe a month. I have a program for the next three weeks and we’re going to sit down and see if it is good or do we have to change the program for the upcoming races? The ambition is to go as far as possible, but we will see what is realistic as well.”