‘I don’t necessarily like life’

Thomas Dekker: ‘Cycling was my structure, my support, my comfort zone. Life became much more difficult after that.’Statue of Frank Ruiter

The biography Thomas Dekker – My struggle or your new book Racing for luck?

‘The previous book was a rough biography, written together with the journalist Thijs Zonneveld. It came out in November 2016 when I was 32, a year after the end of my professional career. There was a lot of buzz at the time about the revelations I made in the book, but that openness helped me put everything that happened into perspective and also put some things behind me. Once the honest story is on paper and published in book form, clarity will also come in your head.

‘When I stopped playing sports, the question arose: how will you dress for the next fifty years of your life? It’s a quest that I’m still in the middle of, and that’s it Racing for luck.’

Grand and convincing or take it easy?

‘Cycling is a tough sport, but somehow it’s also pure nonsense. I hadn’t done anything else since I was 11; it was my structure, my grip, my comfort zone until I was 30. Life got a lot harder after that.

‘Others may find themselves in calmer waters after their careers end. They return to their town or village with a family, where the children simply go to school and to the sports club; the basic, everyday things I’ve always skipped over.

‘The opposite happened to me. I fell in love (with the American Nathalie Marciano, art dealer and film producer, red.) and moved to Los Angeles. The big art fairs I went to, the parties, the trips we went on, I lived her luxurious life. It was fine at the time, but I didn’t get to deal with the long cycling career as I described it in the first book. In retrospect, I was already quite depressed at the time, only I had a wife who loved me dearly and was constantly inventing things to do with me. Occupational therapy.

“I learned in LA that extreme fun can also be extremely confusing. It couldn’t stop. Then I was at home and I was vivinoing — an app that shows how a wine is rated — and the cheapest bottle was $8,000. There was only the best of everything there, but for me in the end it was too much of it all.

“When that relationship ended, in 2019, I realized I’d never really been alone before. Paying a utility bill, cleaning the house, arranging insurance, I’d never done that.

“I’ve hit the brakes really hard, maybe too hard, by not doing anything for seven years now. I want to be able to be myself without cycling or being famous, just to feel calm. I want that satisfaction comes from the little things: a bike ride with friends, reading the newspaper with a cup of coffee, buying flowers every Monday from the florist Peter, taking a shower – I love taking a shower.

“Don’t see that ‘How are you? Yeah, busy, busy!’ Now I have to be careful about that, I note. I now have whole days promoting this book for the first time in ages, and people quickly assume you’re doing well. It’s complete nonsense, because it’s all out there «.

Thomas Dekker: 'In LA I experienced that extreme pleasure can also be extremely confusing.'  Statue of Frank Ruiter

Thomas Dekker: ‘In LA I experienced that extreme pleasure can also be extremely confusing.’Statue of Frank Ruiter

The spiritual path or the cycle path? (1)

“I’ve been in LA for almost five years and I’ve ridden there zero times. I had a bike, yeah.’ laughs. ‘I think it’s still there, I left quite abruptly.

‘For my depression I had a lot of therapy, in a spiritual sense but also in general care. It’s a lot of talk and eventually you have to act on it. But the structure of regular cycling and the happy substances you create with it also help. Cycling has proven to be my most unconditional love in recent years. It has been my profession, I recognize it, it is in my DNA. I now like to sit back at the butcher for a few hours. So: come home, eat something with satisfaction, wash the trip off me, put on something comfortable and plop on the sofa. Then my day will actually be good’.

A round of 50 kilometers in the evening sun, no wind or a long journey in hell with many altimeters?

‘The last. You can’t find out. An evening round like this feels like a breath of fresh air to me.’

Thomas Dekker: 'I want the satisfaction to come from the little things.  A round on the bike with friends.'  Statue of Frank Ruiter

Thomas Dekker: ‘I want the satisfaction to come from the little things. A round on the bike with friends.’Statue of Frank Ruiter

Can happiness be created or not?

“To a certain extent, yes. If you’re unwell for a long period of time, don’t lie on the couch or in bed and wait for it to pass. Then you really have to take action. It’s trial and error for me I don’t necessarily like life.

‘I was recently cycling with someone I’d met on a gravel ride, Gooise Gravel 200, and she later texted saying: I didn’t get the idea that you’re very depressed. I guess you have no idea. I know I can look rested and relaxed but don’t look like me when I get home. So some days I have a really bad urge to shower and go to bed.’

With or without a wife?

‘Of. There were always only four to six months between my relationships. It’s not your choice, is it? Love happens to you. All three times I knew it could be a relationship the moment I saw her for the first time. I don’t understand why some people make it so hard that indecisive dating stuff after a few months can’t name what it represents.

‘I’ve been with Pip for a year and a half now and I’m trying to be the best version of myself because in the meantime I think someone else doesn’t have to suffer anymore because of my own suffering. It can be quite complicated in the dynamics of a relationship where equality is so important. Does the other person really accept the depressed side of you, or does the other person go beyond themselves in empathizing with your situation and going beyond her limits to make the relationship work?

‘I’ve become wiser through trial and error, and at least I know for sure that I no longer want to hang my happiness on someone else or live someone else’s life. It’s easier now because we don’t live together and Pip works at the hospital.’ Laughs: “Of course I can’t go there.”

The spiritual path or the cycle path? (2)

‘I spend a lot of time with Laurens ten Dam, my oldest and best cycling friend. We are both extremes, but in different ways. He met his wife in high school and decided early on that he would never do certain things, things like cheating, doping, taking drugs.

‘In a way, Lau is still a professional cyclist, his family and life are still set up for that. He often jokes that I do nothing. The path I have walked since 2015 has changed and deepened our conversations. As a top athlete, you are used to it always being about you. You don’t have to go to that birthday because you already drove six hours that day. Of course, that’s not realistic for the rest of your life, and it can be confusing at times. I sometimes talk to Lau about this, for example when we were on the road in America for 28 days in May. Then I make him aware of how you can see your own part in a difficult dynamic with others’.

Working or working on yourself?

‘This can be a bit justified but I think it’s too easy to say to me from the sidelines, “Wouldn’t it be nice to get a job?” My dad meant well when he suggested it after living in LA, but it’s like telling someone who’s depressed, “Just go get yourself some structure!”

‘If it is financially necessary, I will of course look for work, but that is not the case now. I would like to develop a personal growth course. Course is a dirty word, coach is a dirty word, but whatever you call it: I think that with my broad background I can appeal to a group that would otherwise not quickly open up to something in the self-development corner. I have experienced the luxury of LA, but I grew up in a cul-de-sac in Dirkshorn with twelve houses, my father has thrown his suitcases on the belt at Schiphol all his life and never earned more than 2,000 euros.

‘A journalist asked me: what’s a factory worker to do with the life you live? It insinuates: what are you whining about? I don’t like to judge that. I don’t know what dilemmas or traumas you are dealing with, what is going on in your head right now, how you stand in life. I know that the other is often a good distraction in order not to have to look at oneself in the mirror.’

Thomas Decker

1984 Born in Dirkshorn
2003 Dutch road champion with the promises
2004 Second at the U23 World Championships
2005 Start of career as a professional cyclist
2007 First Tour de France with the Rabobank team
2008 Departure from Rabobank due to abnormal blood values
2009 Two-year ban for doping, dismissal from the Silence-Lotto team
2011 book Clean enoughTV documentary nobody knows me
2015 End of professional career
Biography 2016 Thomas Dekker: my fightparticipate in Expedition Robinson (RTL5)
Theater program 2020 Tour The Legendwith performance coach John Leenders
2022 Joins Expedition Robinson: All Stars (RTL4), book Racing for luck

Thomas Dekker is in a relationship and lives in Amsterdam.

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