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Niki Terpstra is the newest recruit to gravel’s ‘Dutch Mafia.’
The Dutch rider, famous for winning both Paris-Roubaix and the Tour of Flanders, is in Colorado this weekend to race the LeadBoat Challenge — the double-header of the Leadville Trail 100 MTB race and SBT GRVL.
Terpstra and his family have been vacationing in Colorado ahead of the two races alongside his longtime friend and racing buddy Laurens ten Dam and his family. The ‘gravel mafia’ is ten Dam’s tongue-in-cheek name for the handful of Dutch riders who have begun to infiltrate — and post impressive results in — the US gravel scene.
While Terpstra is still racing on the road for UCI ProTeam Team TotalEnergies, the 38-year-old’s visit to Colorado in the middle of the season could be seen as a harbinger of things to come. Is he headed down the path of ten Dam — and fellow mafiosos Thomas Dekker and Dennis van Winden — to become a globe-trotting gravel racer?
“I don’t know, everything is still open,” Terpstra told VeloNews. “Probably my preference is still to be a road cyclist.”
Nevertheless, Terpstra is in town to race hard this weekend. Ten Dam has schooled him on the level of the athletes in the American off-road scene right now — a deep field of men and women, many of whom are racing the six-series Life Time Grand Prix — and the two have been in Colorado for over a week now, reconning both courses and hanging out with their families.
Terpstra said that he isn’t intimidated by the off-road — “I always like to do other stuff on the bike besides racing on the road. All the winter I’m off road,” he said — but that Leadville’s vert and distance will be challenging.
As will following that effort with Steamboat on Sunday.
“If I have a good day, it should be OK for me,’ he said. “But it’s really demanding. It’s constantly up and down. If you look at one hill you think ‘oh its not so hard, but in the end everything counts.’ The repeating of all the little climbs, it’s gonna hurt in the end. But it’s a really beautiful route and I like it. Leadville is gonna be really hard. I hope I can enjoy that and have some good legs on Sunday.”
As to whether Terpstra’s history as a Classics specialist will influence his day on the gravel in Steamboat Springs, the Dutchman didn’t draw too deep a comparison.
“It’s not so much to compare but in the end it’s a long and hard and demanding race and it’s really for the guys who have a big tank, a good engine.”
Terpstra is racing SBT on the featherweight Specialized Crux and Leadville on a full-suspension Epic — with a dropper. He loves both bikes — the mountain bike, especially — and isn’t fussed about marginal gains when it comes to doing well at the weekend’s races.
“It’s gonna be my first gravel race and after the race I can tell you more about it. It’s new for me but you know in the end, it’s people with a bicycle and a finish line they all want to do their best. So I think then mentality on every bike is the same whether it’s a gravel bike, mountain bike or road bike.”