Niels Bastiaens •
Wednesday January 10, 2024 at 7:30 AM
Interview Ryan Kamp has been racing since the turn of the year man in black, but make no mistake: the 23-year-old Dutchman has indeed found shelter after his forced departure from Pauwels Sauzen-Bingoal after New Year’s Eve. But are all worries gone now? “That is difficult to estimate. But I have gained new confidence that – if I keep going like this – there will always be a solution,” says Kamp CyclingFlits.
Let’s be honest: the construction that the Roodhooft brothers set up for Kamp was the ultimate lifebuoy. By attracting sponsors Colnago and Campagnolo, they ultimately gave Kamp the opportunity to continue his career as an individual rider. “Three weeks ago they didn’t know how to help me. Everything had to be arranged very quickly. And still not everything is complete. I only picked up my first two bikes the evening after Zolder, but I am very happy that I can bridge the winter this way.”
Do you think it’s strange that we were a bit shocked that someone like Ryan Kamp couldn’t find a team?
“I was shocked by it myself, so it’s not surprising that you had the same feeling. It’s just crazy too. I think I’m seventh in the World Cup rankings, I came fifth at the European Championships. And I am also still moving up in the UCI rankings, because I was unable to score any points during this period last year due to a concussion. It is very frustrating that you are not welcome anywhere.”
You’ve put your manager to work these past few weeks, right?
“I work together with Zelo Sports. And yes, they started calling around and did their job well. Only they got the same answer almost everywhere. No money. No room. There were also a number of teams that said: you are Dutch and our Belgian sponsors are only looking for Belgians. So yes, then it will be very difficult to get it done at once.”
Fortunately, there are still the Roodhoofts! What was their motivation for bringing you on board?
“What they said to me is that they just thought it was a shame that my career would be lost. And I think they enjoyed testing my bikes and my equipment for once. That’s obviously not the usual, contemporary stuff, and I guess they wanted to try something with that.”
The agreement runs until early March. What next?
“I’m not sure about that yet. Of course, they also hope that if a shirt sponsor comes along, they might be able to do something with it too. But the first goal was to get me cycling. Maybe I will now continue to ride as an individual rider for the rest of my career. But tomorrow there will be some sponsor who wants to take part in this project, and it will suddenly become more. That is difficult to estimate now. But I have gained new confidence that – if I keep going like this – there will always be a solution.”
You told us earlier that you also had road ambitions. Will you not be allowed to spend the summer in the Alpecin-Deceuninck Development team?
“That was my ambition indeed, yes. And of course that could be perfectly possible here with their Development Team. But how they are going to pour that into the barrel is something for after the winter, I think.”
What do your problems finding a team say about the general state of international cyclo-cross?
“First and foremost, it is a very small world. The sponsor circles are probably also strongly connected through friends, enthusiasts and the like. My conclusion is: if there is no longer room for a regular top 10 rider like me, then in my opinion the sport is not really going well. This means that the top 10 and everything else behind it can pack its bags in a few years. There is little budget for the sub-toppers.”
Then you get the feeling: what else can I do to secure a contract?
“Yes, you are professional, you wake up with it, you go to sleep with it. You do everything for it. And yet every week you continue to encounter the same confrontation that you have nowhere to turn, which has not been good for morale. But luckily I was able to pull myself through through friends, family and professional help. It’s a difficult world.”
Has this whole situation had a big impact on your form and your performance in recent weeks?
“Yes, they sometimes talk about sleepless nights, but I really had some. Of course that does have an impact. Over the last few weeks I have had such intensive contact with Christoph and Philip that I was driving up and down almost every day to try on clothes, bicycle measurements, this material, that material. There hasn’t been much training in the last few weeks.”
Can you think about performance again?
“I still have a decent World Cup ranking. I would like to maintain or even improve that. For the rest: the championships. That is always a goal and also a great opportunity to put myself in the spotlight.”
Finally, a word about your new material. Colnago and Campagnolo have a great tradition in cross-country, but it is still a leap into the deep.
“Niels Albert, Sven Nys, Paul Herygers and Richard Groenendaal: they all rode a Colnago. But in the last few years it has disappeared from the cross. Still, it is a fast bike. In Baal I immediately noticed that the bike handles very well, responds well and does what I want. Furthermore, it will be a matter of getting used to it as quickly as possible, by occasionally choosing a nice mountain bike route instead of doing road training.”