The First-Ever Drifter X Owner: Olympic Gold Medalist Ted-Jan Bloemen
If you grew up in The Netherlands, chances are you were captivated by two sports as a child: cycling and speed skating. Ted-Jan Bloemen was a natural at both, but started to show exceptional talent on ice as a teenager. He started with regional teams, then joined the national program, and was also picked up by commercial teams in Holland. “Being a speed skater, when you turn 14-15, cycling becomes a big part of your training,” Bloemen says. “At first a couple times a week, then all the time.”
Long track speed skating is like the Dutch equivalent to baseball or football in America—it captivates young minds, the talent pool is endlessly deep, and it’s a source of national pride.
“When my parents first put me on skates I just loved it—the gliding,” Bloemen says. “All I ever wanted to do was become a professional speed skater.” But he never really found the right foundation for him to grow as a long track skater in his home country. The competition was phenomenally deep, with current stars taking precedence over developing young talent in the country. Bloemen felt he was missing his opportunity to evolve into a world-beater, so he started to explore his options. “I was too stressed about trying to find a decent team, to be able afford it, and qualify for world-class competitions.”
When he was 27, Bloemen decided to take control of his future, which meant doing something radical. His father was born in Canada, and Bloemen had dual citizenship. So he packed up his skates and his bike and moved to Calgary, a city at the epicenter of Canada’s winter Olympic sports programs. In the summertime, Calgary is also a cyclist’s training paradise as it sits at about 3,400 feet above sea level, has plenty of smoothly paved roads, and is in the foothills of the Rocky Mountains.
Bloemen’s bold choice has paid off. In his second season in Canada, he broke a world record.
“From the start, the Canadian team wanted to have me, and we have ended up making each other stronger. I’m still really motivated,” he says. In 2018, at the Winter Games in Pyeongchang, all those years of hard work on the oval and on a bike paid off, and he became an Olympic champion in the 10,000m, and silver medallist in the 5,000m.
Bloemen is now setting down roots in Calgary, with he and his wife starting a family there. Cycling in and around the city is a significant part of his life. He goes out for a ride twice daily—typically a focused aerobic or anaerobic set of intervals, depending on the training period, and then a three-hour easy spin in the afternoon. “I always like to have a nice bike,” Bloemen admits. “It makes me want to train more, and I enjoy training more.” But finding the right bike, especially one that can satisfy his world-class training demands while being comfortable and versatile, has been a challenge.
As a professional athlete, Bloemen travels a lot. He also brings a bike wherever he goes, in order to get his training rides in, as well as explore an area around where his team are either racing or getting in a training camp. The problem was for years that Bloemen’s primary bike was carbon. “With a carbon bike, I’d feel uncomfortable with it,” Bloemen says, fearful of the wear and tear on the frame. “So I would often travel with a second bike.”
Frustrated, and longing for that one perfect bike to solve all his problems, Bloemen started talking with teammates about titanium.
“Titanium bikes are bulletproof, super light and just beautiful,” Bloemen says. And because he was getting a chance to ride on mixed terrain both out his front door in Calgary, as well as other spots around the world, he started looking into a gravel bike that could still perform alongside his teammates while doing hard intervals on the road. He started looking at a Drifter, and then became aware of the new Drifter X, which sounded like a bike designed specifically for him. So he put in an order, and fittingly became the first-ever Drifter X owner.
“With the disc brakes and bigger clearance, it means I can take it anywhere,” Bloemen says of his Drifter X. But when it came to big, aggressive training efforts, he feels the bike really shines. “I’m still doing a lot of travel on the road; I wanted to have a really good road bike, and the Drifter X is perfect.”
The first few weeks with the Drifter X coincided with a significant amount of daily cycling on Bloemen’s training program, and gritty early-season weather, something he’s all too familiar with from his years growing up in The Netherlands. “There was lots of rain, and with the electronic shifting and clearances, it’s been great,” he says of his initial impressions. “It soaks up the vibration better than alloy and has been stiff, fast and solid from the moment I rode it.”
Bloemen got rid of his other bikes, and now just rides on his Drifter X, both for training and also commuting. “I found some gravel roads I take on it nearby,” Bloemen says. “Where ever I take it, it feels like the right bike for the job.”
Design was also paramount to Bloemen’s decision to go with the Drifter X. He requested some fittingly custom elements for his one-and-only bike.
“They asked me if I wanted some memories on there,” he says of his process of selecting the details for his Drifter X. “What No. 22 does with anodizing is amazing. I put my name on it, as well as the Olympic rings under the seat and rear chainstay.” Bloemen’s Olympic gold medal race is of course one of his best memories as an athlete, so he included the date and his Olympic time on the seat tube. “But I didn’t want put my world record on there because I plan to break it. These are just nice, subtle touches. I just like that they are on there.”