Glorious return to cyclocross for Van Empel
Fem van Empel has marked her return to the field with a victory. The 21-year-old...
Last season, David Dekker already was on the podium between the pros in Le Samyn. This year the former Dutch U23 champion will make his official debut as a pro rider in the Team Jumbo-Visma jersey.
The 22-year-old Dekker has just finished his training in Spain. A new season is approaching and the preparations are going well. "Although this training camp is only the first introduction to the team, I already felt like part of the team for a while. Together with my new trainer Marc Lamberts, I started my new trainings quite early and the cooperation is going smoothly."
Last season he opened with a third place among the pros in Le Samyn. "That has been a real highlight for me so far. It was my last season in the U23 category, and then it’s the year of now or never if you want to become a pro. All winter you are training so you can maintain yourself at a certain level. This was my first race between the pros and even though not everything went well, it was a great day. I felt so good. Instead of just following, I was able to help determine the race. The fact that I could experience that for the first time at that level was really cool."
After a dream start with two victories and that third place, the second part of the season did not go as expected. "The first race after the lockdown is something you look forward to. You have not been able to race for months, and before that you had a whole winter without racing. Subsequently I crashed almost every race. I was very disappointed about that. Especially in the last stage of the Giro d’Italia U23 I crashed badly. That was the end of the season for me. In the meantime I have recovered from the concussion that I suffered there. It took a while, but I am glad I that I have been patient. Since I started training again, I have not had any problems."
Meanwhile, he is preparing for his official debut among the pros. He is following in the footsteps of his father Erik Dekker, who made his debut with Rabobank, the predecessor of Team Jumbo-Visma. "My father played no role in my choice, however. It is a happy coincidence, but it was no reason for me to join this team. For me, Team Jumbo-Visma is currently one of the best teams in the world and that is also reflected in the results of last year. Not only with riders like Wout van Aert and Primoz Roglic, but across the board the team has proven itself. As a sprinter I believe this team is the best place for me to develop. With Dylan Groenewegen they have shown that they can do that very well, that they know how it should be done."
Dekker tells how it all started. "When I was only seven years old, I already competed in ‘dikkebandenraces’. When I was eight years old, I started riding my first real races. My dream race is Paris-Roubaix. I think it is the most beautiful race there is. It is so mythical with the cobblestones. I rode it once as a junior. In terms of result, it was a bit disappointing, but it was a unique experience. Then you find out how special and how tough that race really is."
Even when Dekker is not on a bike, he spends his time well. He has plenty of other hobbies. "I am a real fan of sneakers. My nickname is SneakerDave. I collect them and I follow everything related to sneakers. Jordans are my favourite. That is because I am also a fan of basketball. Next to cycling it is one of the sports I watch that the most on TV. I am also an avid gamer, mainly Fortnite. I play that together with several other guys from cycling", Dekker says.
Despite his distinct hobbies, he sees himself as a calm rider within the peloton. "I always get a little tired when I am riding in the back. I like to be where the action is", Dekker admits. For the upcoming season, the first-year professional still finds it difficult to have any expectations. "I am totally new at this level. I would have liked to ride more races like Le Samyn last year. To gain even more experience. This season I want to be ready from the start. Even though this is only my first year as a pro, I want to show what I am capable of."