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Shimano #BELIEVES in Travis Klok

We at Shimano set up the #BELIEVE campaign to encourage people to believe in themselves and help some of their dreams become reality. That’s what happened to Travis Klok, a young Dutch cyclist from near Rotterdam.

In 2014, he sent Shimano his dream: to become a pro racer with Sky, or otherwise at least spend a day training with his hero, Chris Froome. While Shimano can’t promise anyone a pro career overnight, including Travis, we did pull out all the stops to make the second part of his dream come true. And what a day it turned out to be.

Not only did he meet Chris Froome, but he spent the day climbing the Col Madone in Monaco in full Team Sky gear with his idol. We wanted to hear all about it, so on June 15, we visited Travis at his home to hear about his dream day.

Quitting is not an option

The story starts a few years earlier though, when Travis was 10 years old, and it’s a testament to Travis’s drive and belief in himself. A 12-year-old friend and neighbour of Travis’ died that year. He fell unconscious at school, was taken to the hospital but passed away there. When Travis saw a Dutch event on TV called Alpe d’HuZes, in which participants walk, run or cycle up the legendary Alpe d’Huez to raise money for cancer research, he knew that’s want he wanted to do to commemorate his friend.

‘My dad came home that evening,’ Travis says, ‘and I told him, “Dad, I want to do that.” My dad’s initial reaction was “are you feeling okay?”’ Travis wasn’t kidding, though.

‘My dad came home that evening,’ Travis says, ‘and I told him, “Dad, I want to do that.” My dad’s initial reaction was “are you feeling okay?”’ Travis wasn’t kidding, though. On the contrary, he had set his sights on it. When his father saw that there was no way of swaying Travis, he relented and said they would need to buy Travis a racing bike and start training seriously.

The motto of the Alpe d’HuZes seems to have been written for Travis: ‘quitting is not an option’. Travis and his father started training every Sunday when he was 12 years old, increasing the distances to 80 km, 90 km, 100 km, and eventually to 120 km and 150 km. Travis climbed the Alpe d’Huez for the first time when he was 13 years old. ‘The first three turns are the steepest,’ Travis says. ‘Right away, you hear everyone around you shifting gears. But the feeling is incredible. There are all these people, people you’ve never even met, standing on the side of the road, shouting, encouraging you.’

#BELIEVE that dreams come true

Travis’ adventure with Shimano’s #BELIEVE contest began with a little less intensity. ‘It actually started as a bit of a joke,’ Travis says. ‘I told my parents that I’m going to participate in #BELIEVE, and they were a bit hesitant and told me I should keep in mind that I might not win.’ But Travis wouldn’t be Travis if those words didn’t motivate him to the core.

Both Travis and his father started to spread the word via social media, and before he knew it, the ‘likes’ starting flowing in. Travis was at school when he heard that he was one of the three winners. And it didn’t take long for him to realize what part of his dream was about to come true. ‘Shimano couldn’t very well make me a pro racer, that’s something I have to do myself, but as for the second part, to train once with my hero Christopher Froome, that is something they could arrange.’

The date for Travis’ dream day was set for 18 March 2015. Travis travelled with a Shimano film crew to Monaco, where Chris Froome lives. On the morning of 18 March, Travis found himself standing in front of the Sky Team House. ‘Then I was told I could go up,’ Travis says. ‘So I go up the stairs, turn the corner, and I see Chris Froome standing there. I could hardly believe it was actually him, that it was actually happening. It felt like being in a dream.’ Travis had breakfast with Froome and the Sky team, then Froome handed Travis a full Sky outfit. ‘Shimano also gave me these bizarrely beautiful carbon shoes, black with some blue around the edge.’ But the best was yet to come.

‘We walked downstairs to the garage, and then Froome came outside with a Pinarello bike with a Dura-Ace groupset. It had been adjusted to my length and fit perfectly, as if it was mine. I could hardly believe it. A chance to ride on your dream bike.’ And so the dream began as Froome and Travis set out to climb the 925-metre-high Col de la Madone.

Learning from the best

The Madone is steep. Travis was warned before they began that it’s a heavy climb and that there was a plan B in place in case it was too demanding. Or that if he gets tired, he can always throw his bike onto the roof of the car and hop in. ‘My dream of riding next to Froome was about to come true,’ Travis laughs, ‘so something pretty awful would have to happen to get me off that bike. I told them I don’t care if I end up retching on my bike, I’m not going to stop.’

As they began the climb, Travis was almost immediately mistaken for a pro, as a rider on the other side of the road saw them and said ‘Hi, Richie’. Froome laughed and explained to Travis that he normally rides with Richie Porte, who is more Travis’ size. After stopping for a quick break to eat, Froome asked Travis if he wanted to do some interval training, 40 seconds full out with rest intervals in between.

They did four intervals. Riding with Dura-Ace was a totally new experience as well. ‘It’s smoother, faster and lighter, it’s just great.’ Froome and the Sky trainer both told Travis that he is a strong biker who paces himself well, and that he obviously feels at ease on the bike. And he was given one important tip: improve your breathing. ‘I have a tendency to hold in my breath when I exert myself, so that’s something I need to practice and perfect. These are some of the things that Froome taught me: stay calm on the bike, breathe right, take it down a notch when it gets tough, and don’t stand too much. And the importance of eating well before cycling.’

And he was given one important tip: improve your breathing. ‘I have a tendency to hold in my breath when I exert myself, so that’s something I need to practice and perfect. These are some of the things that Froome taught me: stay calm on the bike, breathe right, take it down a notch when it gets tough, and don’t stand too much. And the importance of eating well before cycling.

Once at the top, there was a group of cyclists there, and they wanted a picture with Froome. Travis moved to the side to let them take the picture, but Froome said, ‘Richie, come here too.’ So the day ended with pictures at the top of the mountain, as Froome had to leave for another commitment.

The Shimano team met Travis at that point, congratulated him and gave him the option of riding or driving down. ‘I thought, great, I’m going to descend on a Sky Pinarello and with a Sky outfit on. I think I must have hit well over 60 km/h in some parts. I descended like I’ve never descended before. I’ve been down the Col d’Ornon and the Alpe d’Huez four times, but this was insane!’

Why Froome?

We all have our heroes. But why did Travis choose Froome? ‘Froome’s a real climber. And I think I’m a climber too. But also he’s a regular guy. Some celebrities think the world of themselves. They feel they’re better than other people. Froome’s not like that. That’s why I told him that he’s my example, that I want to be like him later. I think he was actually a bit embarrassed when I said that. That’s what I mean, he’s just himself, really friendly.'

That pretty much sums up Travis too. ‘Since I met Froome, I try harder than ever before when I go biking. I try to go even faster, try to push myself even harder in climbs.’ Travis is a charming young man. There is not an ounce of arrogance in him, just a genuine passion for cycling. A passion Shimano shares and hopes he develops. Who knows, this may have been the first step towards realizing Travis’ other dream: becoming a pro. We hope to see his name in the papers one day.

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