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The veteran Dutch rider, who was second to Ian Boswell last year, attacked with around 200km still to go and built up a solid three minute lead at one point. He was later caught by a chase group that included Boswell, Keegan Swenson and eventual winner Ivar Slik and then dropped almost immediately.
Ten Dam’s race wasn’t done yet and he battled back from a near three minute deficit to regain contact with the leaders in the closing few miles. The 41 year-old even managed a couple of late digs before the inevitable sprint took place.
After over nine hours of racing through mud, rain and gravel ten Dam had mixed emotions about his race. On the one hand he was hugely disappointed after showing that he was arguably the strongest male rider in the 200-miler. At the same time, he took significant satisfaction from his never-say-die attitude.
“With 200km to go I went with two riders, Paul Voss and Matta De Marchi. Two strong riders and I thought that we could go far with three but they were dropped and I think that I went too fast. Then I was solo but then the rain started, and the wind changed, so I had headwind again. Then a group of five came and they dropped me immediately. I had to chase them for 80km to get back on, so I ended up basically doing 200km solo,” ten Dam told Flobikes after the race.
Ten Dam came into the race with his confidence up and his form trending in the right direction. After a solid ride in Gravel Locos in May the Dutch rider remained in the US where he trained with former road teammate and fellow gravel racer, Thomas Dekker.
“This year my power numbers were even better than last year. There were a lot of strong guys but with the legs that I had today I wanted to go solo with 200km to go and try to win it,” he said.
“For me, it’s difficult to sprint but I thought that I had a good chance when we had three minutes with the two other guys but then the others cracked and I had to do everything by myself. That became harder when the wind changed. But it is what it is.
“I had fun out there, and I wanted to put on a show. I think I did. For me, it was the bullshit talk about the aerobars but I just said f*ck it, and I went alone without aerobars and let the legs do the talking, and put on a show. I think that I did that.”
The reason for ten Dam’s willingness to chase after being dropped by the lead group came from his anger at the situation in which he found himself after such a strong start to the race.
“It’s not a podium but I’m 41 years old. What can you expect? For sure, I wanted to win,” he said. “I thought that I was the strongest today. The five came to me and I was dropped on the hilly part. They were racing.
“I had just done 100km solo and my morale went down because they had caught me. I made myself angry and I came back. I think it’s the biggest ride of my life. I’m proud that I’m still in the mix.”