Koen Pelgrim from Deceuninck-Quick-Step on his gravel debut: “It’s like an old-fashioned race”

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Gravel races continue to add new faces in unexpected places. In Halloween, the coach of the Deceuninck-Quick-Step team, Koen Pelgrim, will start the Belgian Waffle Ride Kansas, as will his protégé Remco Evenepoel.

Pelgrim, a long-time Quick-Step physiologist and trainer, is taking part in a gravel race for the first time, as is Evenepoel. Pelgrim and the other team members Nicolas Coosmans and Ricardo Scheidecker compete in the 33 mile “Wanna” event; Evenepoel and his teammate Mattia Cattaneo are competing in the 70 mile “Wafer” event. The main event ‘Waffle’ is 111 miles away.

Saturday before the race, the Specialized team sponsor installed Evenepoel, Cattaneo and Pelgrim on new Crux bikes and went to film them on the gravel roads just north of Lawrence, Kansas.

When asked how many gravel events he had done, Pelgrim just laughed. “Zero,” said the Dutch physiologist.

Pelgrim said he has followed the American gravel racing scene “a bit” from Europe.

“I listen to Laurens ten Dam’s podcast a lot, so mostly the information I have comes from him,” Pelgrim said.

Although he had never been on the Crux gravel bike before Saturday or had never done a gravel race, Pelgrim said he liked the concept.

“I think that’s a good idea. It’s good. It’s kind of like old school racing, right? He said.” It’s like 100 years ago: just roads in gravel, everyone on the road takes care of themselves.

“We will see,” he said. “I hope it will be an interesting experience.”

Deceuninck based his ride at Sunflower Outdoor & Bike Shop, owned by four-time Unbound Gravel winner Dan Hughes. Hughes won the first edition of Unbound in 2006 (on a custom Steelman), and completed it 11 times. Hughes has provided feedback to Specialized on their Crux and Diverge bikes for years. Belgian Waffle Ride Kansas is also based at Sunflower, with the exhibit set up in the closed street next to the store.

Stay tuned for a story on Hughes and his shop’s photo gallery, where the history of the road and gravel hangs on the walls.

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