Deceuninck-Quick-Step’s Koen Pelgrim on his gravel debut: ‘It’s like old school racing’

Veteran team coach is hoping for 'an interesting experience' on the gravel roads of Kansas.

Photo: Ben Delaney

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Gravel racing continues to add new faces in unexpected places. On Halloween, Deceuninck-Quick-Step team coach Koen Pelgrim will take the start at Belgian Waffle Ride Kansas, as will his protege Remco Evenepoel.

Pelgrim, a physiologist and longtime Quick-Step coach, is checking out a gravel race as a participant for the first time, as is Evenepoel. Pelgrim and fellow team staffers Nicolas Coosmans and Ricardo Scheidecker are doing the 33-mile ‘Wanna’ event; Evenepoel and his teammate Mattia Cattaneo are doing the 70-mile ‘Wafer’ event. The main ‘Waffle’ event is 111 miles.

On Saturday before the race, team sponsor Specialized put Evenepoel, Cattaneo, and Pelgrim on new Crux bikes and went out to film them riding on the gravel roads just north of Lawrence, Kansas.

When asked how many gravel events he had done, Pelgrim just laughed. “Zero,” the Dutch physiologist said.

Pelgrim said he had been following “a little bit” of the American gravel racing scene from Europe.

“I listen to the podcast of Laurens ten Dam quite a lot, and so mainly the information that I have is from him,” Pelgrim said.

Despite having never been on the Crux gravel bike before Saturday or having never done a gravel race, Pelgrim said he liked the concept.

“I think it is a good idea. It’s nice. It’s a bit like old school racing, no?” he said. “It’s like they did 100 years ago: just gravel roads, everybody on the road taking care of themselves.”

“We are going to see,” he said “Hopefully it will be an interesting experience.”

Deceuninck based their ride out of Sunflower Outdoor & Bike Shop, which is owned by four-time Unbound Gravel winner Dan Hughes. Hughes won the first edition of Unbound in 2006 (on a custom Steelman), and has completed it 11 times. Hughes has provided feedback to Specialized on its Crux and Diverge bikes for years. Belgian Waffle Ride Kansas is also based out of Sunflower, with the expo set up on the closed street beside the shop.

Stay tuned for a story on Hughes and photo gallery of his shop, where road and gravel history hangs on the walls. 

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