Belgian breakaway artist Jan Bakelants makes his first journey to the US this week to compete at Unbound Gravel 200. He retired from the professional highway peloton after his seventeenth season in 2022 and wasted no time in fashioning a brand new getaway, on and off the bike.
He is pursuing a sports activities administration diploma, mixing in some off-road occasions in Europe, making a documentary on driving gravel and commentating on the Giro d’Italia for Belgian TV station VTM. A visit to Kansas wasn’t on the prime of the checklist just a few brief months in the past.
“There are such a lot of locations on the earth you possibly can go to. And yeah, Kansas most likely would not be my first selection, as a result of going [so far] comes at the price of going some place else. The chance is sweet, a fast cease and go,” Bakelants advised Cyclingnews the day after he hit US soil in Kansas Metropolis on Tuesday.
After Unbound there is no such thing as a sightseeing, as he returns on to Belgium. “It is possibly higher to reach earlier and overcome the jet lag, and get used to the warmth, nevertheless it’s additionally a part of the expertise.”
And why not make a splash at Unbound Gravel, the world’s most prestigious gravel race? Bakelants earned the most important victory of his highway profession on the 2013 Tour de France, the place his first professional victory on the WorldTour got here on stage 5 in Corsica, and he wore the maillot jaune for 2 days. He stands out as the first yellow jersey winner to have raced in Emporia.
“So I used to be what number of years as a WorldTour rider, 12? I had my time to fret about performances and do as finest as I probably might. Now it is time to simply take pleasure in it,” mentioned Bakelants, who final raced two seasons on the highest tier with Intermarché-Wanty-Gobert Materiaux.
With a busy schedule off the bike, Bakelants mentioned he did not prepare an excessive amount of for Unbound, preferring to take pleasure in “no stress” as his second profession develops.
“My time was restricted. I take a category in sports activities administration, and the exams had been up to now month. I used to be lately commentating for the Giro, this previous weekend, and due to this, I could not journey earlier. The circumstances are as they’re, I take no stress. Most necessary is to remain protected and out of hassle – no damaged tyres, no damaged chain – and you’re fairly far alongside.”
The 37-year-old has just a few UCI Gravel World Collection occasions below his belt thus far this yr, his first to at gravel leading to a sixth place at Gravel Fondo Limburg. He then completed tenth at 3RIDES Gravel Race. These races are a lot shorter than his Unbound endeavour on Saturday, the primary two races averaging one-third of the gap of 205 miles, or 330km.
“The UCI Gravel Collection on the European scene is totally completely different as a result of the format is shorter. There are a number of professional riders, particularly cyclocross riders as nicely. I am certified for [UCI Gravel] World Championships, however let’s begin with Unbound, after which we see afterward what I’ll do.”
Help from Pearl Izumi, Issue Bikes, Garmin and Oakley have helped Bakelants make the journey to Kansas. And because of Daan Soete, a Belgian cyclocross rider who was third at 3RIDES, Bakelants made just a few connections for the journey in Kansas for himself and videographer/photographer Ruben Van Gucht as they’re engaged on a possible documentary about “the expertise of discovering the American gravel scene, discovering Kansas. We took some photographs already and we are going to decide loads extra.”
Bakelants talked about he can be concerned with taking part in Belgian Gravel nationwide championships on October 15, the week after the Gravel World Championships in Italy. He plans to race another World Collection occasion in early October, La Monsterrato, which “it is in wine nation, in order that appears like an ideal match”.