THIS IS TEXAS

THIS IS TEXAS

Riding Gravel Locos is one of those things the team is looking forward to every year. It is just a vibe. For us, Dutch cowboys, it feels like a complete western film set, but it is very much real and we are loving every minute.

Stefan and Laurens arrived at Dallas Int. Airport on Wednesday May 15th. They quickly took their jetlag towards Hico to get settled for the next few days. Nothing better to get rid of a long flight, than to sit in the sun, in front of an Airstream Classic Trailer on a RV Park, putting the bikes back together.

The next day, sadly, the weather changed for the worse. It was time to do a recon of the course, which meant four hours in the pissing rain. The Dutch Mafia was represent, full force: Niki Terpstra as the undisputed dictator, Ivar Slik - your UNBOUND WINNER 2022, Jasper Ockeloen - winner of Gravel Locos ’22 and Thijs Zonneveld - journalist and beach race podium beast, joined Lau and Stefan. However, the amount of rain caused some flooding, which was a risk for the cyclists, as they had to do river crossings as well. A part of the course was taken out later that day and shortened by 15 kilometers. On Friday, they did a last small recon and called it a day. The sun came back and they had a great bbq at the ranch where they were staying to get the carbs in for the next day.

Saturday Race Day

The course, now 237 kilometers long, was gonna be a tough one with some nasty climbs and the return of the scorching Texas sun. To make things even more interesting, the peloton started off as if they were chased by the devil himself. Apparently, there was a rumor, that the Dutch Mafia wasn’t the only alliance active today. A couple of French-Canadian riders were said to be the answer to the reign of the Dutchmen and there was no time to do some fact checking as the pace quickened and the peloton soon came down to only 25 man.

Lau flatted after 33 kilometers. Not the best time, but, hey, is there ever a good moment? He could resolve it quickly, by using a plug and pumping some CO2. The bad news was he had to chase the group on his own for about 35 kilometers. Just as he rejoined them, a few men decided to take off.

Sebastian Schönberger was one of them, a guy who had already impressed him in Austria. Jasper Ockeloen managed to grab his wheel, but the rest of the Mafia had to take a moment to catch their breath. After 80 kilometers and three steep climbs, the group rejoined them and immediately formed a front group of about 11 riders, including Laurens, hanging on a thread. The second rest stop came just in time and forced the group to have a two minute break to supply on food and water. Although the second group rejoined them shortly after this stop, it quickly fell apart again, leaving both Thijs Zonneveld and Sebastian Schönberger with flats.

It appeared the winner was going to be in this final group. An unknown man in black took off, having the advantage of being the underdog. Nobody really knew what he was capable of and the riders in the group itself were too eager to win themselves, so there was no real commitment to work together to get this Canadian fellah back. He rode in front for an amazing 100 kilometers, by only 3 minutes. The best of the rest was Niki, getting the help of his fellow Dutch men in the finale, to shake off his opponent Adam Roberge (CAN). Who knew this Canadian Mafia thing was going to be a real threat :) LtD crossed the finish line at a 9th place, happy with the performance.

Stefan had a great day on the bike too. He found himself in a group of similar riders, only to find out halfway, that they were going to take a left for the shorter route. The rest of the race was long and hot, but satisfying nevertheless. Taking a 44th place in the GC, he found himself amongst the top 10 of his age group 40-49 year olds. A big personal succes. After the finish, the gang all went to the Cuban rest stop down the parcours, to help out the volunteers and to enjoy the event from a different angle. Later that evening, they celebrated Niki’s 40th birthday with shots at the local saloon. They had a blast. The next day Stefan flew back to Holland and Laurens picked up Thomas Dekker to continue the mid-western vibes for another two weeks, as a preparation for UNBOUND GRAVEL on June 1st.

UPDATE: 

A few days after the event, our friend and Dutch Mafia colleague Ivar Slik crashed into a car just outside Bentonville, Arkansas, where he was preparing for UNBOUND and was taken to the hospital. He has a severe concussion, a broken nose and a small fracture of the skull. He is conscious and will hopefully feel better in a few days, but this news is of course a big shock. We wish him a speedy recovery. 

 

Photo credits go to Velophoto and Stefan Bolt


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