It’s no secret that the Dutch have a way of developing outstanding cycling talent. Mathieu van der Poel, Marianne Vos, Lars van der Haar, and Lucinda Brand are only a few of the nation’s successful elites. So when we got the call to spend a day in the pits with the Dutch national team, we jumped on the opportunity.
The service course for the Dutch National Team was bustling, people hustling from camper to storage unit, changing tires, discussing pressures and tactics with the sports team. The mechanics were just as busy, washing bikes, shoes, wheels, and swapping out gear for the perfect ride.
The Dutch had many superstars in their service over the 2022 Cyclocross World Championships weekend. While Marianne Vos‘ famed Lotto Visma mechanic Marcel van Rossum was getting the now World Champ’s bike clean and lubed, A. Dugast owner Richard Nieuwhuis and American Ken Avery, (Vittorias’ SVP Product Development) were washing bikes and talking tires — the team was efficient.
We took time to soak in all the sports superstars and noticed the calm, relaxed atmosphere in the team camp. The Dutch team looked poised for medals or wins in many races, especially the U23 women, Elite Women, and Elite men’s races. Still, the staff and riders were laughing, having a good time, all the while staying prepped for battle against the best in the world.
After the weekend’s racing and power washing was finished, we got to sit down with some of the team for a Q & A. Ken Avery, Richard Nieuwhuis, and Glen Lee; Managing director of Vittoria industries gave us their thoughts about the days in the pit, proper tire pressure and the new role A. Dugast will play in the US market — and if there are any new tires on the horizon.
BikeRumor: When you got the call to help the Dutch National Team at Worlds, what was your first thought? They had favorites to win in nearly every race — were you nervous?
Ken Avery: The opportunity to attend the race and work for the Dutch team was a huge privilege. Despite being around the race scene for 30 years, I still get excited to learn from the experience of others and translate them into opportunities to further improve products. The Dutch team is always a powerhouse at these events, and this year was no different. Given the fast course conditions, I had a hunch that Vos and Pieterse would win, and they did!
BikeRumor: Tire choice and pressure are always a big deal for cyclocross. Did you notice anything different about how the Dutch Team chose tires, treads, widths for the day?
Avery: In any off-road category, tire choice comes down to the terrain you are riding, and this course was no different. The twist was that the dirt in Fayetteville was a mix of hardpack and loose clay-like soil. This meant that riders chose treads that rolled well but still had room to grip and clean. Richard at A. Dugast is a master in these conditions and equipped the team well for success.
BikeRumor: You were in the pits for the Dutch wins and podiums at Cyclocross Worlds; how do the riders and staff communicate during the race?
Avery: Working the pits at World Championships is always hectic, especially when working for riders that are favored to do well. The pit is set up so the riders can enter from two places on the course, so we could communicate with them twice per lap and monitor their progress on the screen in between. The real difference was the team prep the Dutch team puts into each race, taking feedback from riders after practice laps, which ultimately dictated the tire choice and pressures. They have a system that clearly works. For these reasons, it seemed somehow less hectic… also, the dry conditions meant that riders made fewer trips through the pits (or, in some cases, none).
BikeRumor: I noticed a wider variety of tire widths for the European teams, more 30, 32, and 33mm widths — many riding 32mm Typhoons. Most US riders are on 33mm tires — Is there speed we’re leaving on the table?
Richard Nieuwhuis: The reason some of the riders are using 32 and others are using 33 is simple; 33 is more comfortable, and 32 is lighter, which means in the junior categories, every gram of the bike matters more. Plus, the speed of the juniors is not as high as the elite riders have.
BikeRumor: Vittoria acquired A. Dugast tires last year and already released a collaboration tire (L’Eroica). Will we see some combined efforts for cyclocross or gravel?
Glenn Lee: Growing A. Dugast brand awareness in the United States will be a key strategy going forward. The goal will be to offer easier access to the brand via an increased distribution network. We also want to offer a high level of technical-oriented communication so riders can make more informed decisions about their tire choice. A. Dugast is always looking to develop additional cutting-edge race products, so there will definitely be exciting additions to the line in the future.
BikeRumor: The atmosphere in the Dutch camp felt like a family, riders and staff chatting and making adjustments, helping each other. Did this calm-cool help produce the results?
Avery: In my opinion, yes, the calm atmosphere was a factor in their success. Being stressed is never a strategy, and with their organization, there seemed to be very little. Were they calm because they were confident, or confident because they were calm? Both. This could be an example of preparation meeting expectations, but they came to perform, and the results speak for themselves.
BikeRumor: 13 out of the 18 metals were won on A. Dugast tires — the Typhoon to be exact. What makes this tire so fast, and why do the pros reach for it when files could also work?
Nieuwhuis: Simple. The casing we are using is a fairly high density or high TPI. Also, the glue and latex we use in our casing allow them to ride fairly low tire pressure, even under 1 bar (14 psi) are possible while turning your bike around the 90-degree corner, and without the tire rolling away. The tread pattern of the typhoon is special due to a radius control on both sides, giving you a line between the different knobs. This way you have a good performance in cornering. In the end, cornering speed will decide between winning or not winning.
BikeRumor: You spent lots of time with pros, both new and old, over this Cyclocross Worlds trip. Are there any qualities they possess that make them a champion?
Avery: As with any high-level athlete, all are very driven, and obviously possess some intangible quality that gives them the ability to capitalize on their drive. This could be said of almost any racer though. The true difference (in my opinion) is their commitment off the bike. Quite simply, they live it, both mentally and physically. Things like scheduling their days around recovery, meals, hydration, and even sleep, are all pieces of the puzzle. Beyond that, they all had the ability to channel any hint of nerves into a positive direction, rather than letting negative thoughts enter their minds. They had a plan, worked towards it, and stayed focused.
BikeRumor: What was your favorite memory from your trip to Fayetteville with the Dutch crew?
Avery: My personal favorite memory was seeing how kind everyone was on the Dutch team. Whether it was with fans, hotel staff, or each other, everyone was so down to earth, without a shred of arrogance. Just a feeling of family, and genuine support. Honestly, it’s what makes the sport of cycling so great, and the Dutch team personifies this. I couldn’t think of a better trait for World Champion athletes to have.