Tour de Tietema has been gaining momentum for years. What started as a group of headstrong YouTubers has evolved into a serious cycling team with the sincere ambition to compete in the Tour de France. A unique, forward-thinking team - with YouTube DNA coursing through its veins - is attempting to thrive in the conservative world of cycling. How can Bas Tietema ensure that the Tour de France extends an invitation to his team? IDLProCycling.com sought him out.
Over 1,800 people can fit into the AFAS Circustheater in Scheveningen, and almost the entire auditorium is occupied. However, it's not for a major musical like The Lion King or Disney's Aida, but for a film about cycling. The film being shown is a documentary about the first year of the cycling team TDT-Unibet. "It's actually exceptional that this auditorium is almost sold out," says team founder Tietema.
From YouTube to cycling team, but the story of Tour de Tietema remains the same
Actually, the term 'team founder' does not suffice when describing Tietema's position; TDT-Unibet did not start as a cycling team after all. In 2019, the Zwolle native launched the YouTube channel "Tour de Tietema." He went to the Tour de France to film challenges, with no accreditation, no overnight stay, and no concrete plan. He persuaded two people to join him: filmmakers Devin van der Wiel and Josse Wester.
The YouTube channel gained traction, and the trio accumulated more and more followers on the platform. New series were developed, and in 2022, Tietema, fully documented on YouTube, even managed to become a professional cyclist with Bingoal Pauwels Sauces WB. As a pro, he failed to make a significant impact that year, leading to his departure from the team. This created space for a new project: his own Tour de Tietema cycling team, with Wester, Van der Wiel, and Tietema himself at the helm. Unibet came on board as the main sponsor, and TDT-Unibet was born. Meanwhile, the videos continued to enjoy immense popularity in cycling-loving Holland and Belgium.
"I think our videos could go twice as strong in the new year"
Through the cycling team, Tour de Tietema has year-round content in 2023. Even videos about obscure races like the Battle of Woensdrecht and the Rutland-Melton Cicle Classic garner more than a hundred thousand views on YouTube. "Actually, this year we have only been able to participate in races that the cycling public doesn't typically follow," Tietema notes regarding the level of those races. "In 2024, we are stepping up to a higher level, and there is a chance that we will receive invitations to prominent races. I believe our videos can gain even more traction in the new year because we will be competing in more significant races."
Tietema remains ambitious, and rightfully so. After all, he aims to have his team participate in the 2026 Tour de France, the event where it all began for Tour de Tietema. "I dare to guarantee that people will come to major races especially for us because they have become fans through our content. I also strongly believe in our approach with content leading up to the major races, as it makes the sport more appealing to the general public. With that, I hope that we will eventually become attractive enough for the Tour de France."
TDT-Unibet to the Tour de France? "There is a gap in the system, and we could capitalize on that"
But obtaining such an invitation is no easy feat. The previous Dutch team that operated in the second division of cycling, Roompot, was never granted entry to Le Grande Boucle. "There are various ways in which invitations to professional races are distributed. The organizers of a cycling race have the liberty to invite a few teams of their choosing. The invitation can go to a team with a friendly owner, a team with a prominent name, or even a team with a locally renowned rider."
Tietema doesn't directly fit into any of those categories. "If we were to be invited, it would be for the excitement we bring. In a sense, there is a gap in that system because the selection process is far from logical from an athletic standpoint. We could capitalize on that because we have a unique story. However, it's not a given that organizations would readily embrace that. Additionally, we naturally aim to have the strongest possible team athletically."
Looking at TDT-Unibet's 2024 selection, we find three French talents. Is this a nod to the Tour organization? "No, not really. We didn't recruit individuals to enhance our chances of invitations. We solely considered what these individuals could achieve in the future and how they would fit within our team. Nationality played no role, although we primarily focused on Europe due to visa issues."
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No Yentl Vandevelde at TDT-Unibet in 2024
One notable absence from TDT-Unibet's 2024 roster is Yentl Vandevelde. The Flemish cyclist rode for the team in 2023 and secured a stage victory in the ZLM Tour. Despite this achievement, Vandevelde did not receive a contract extension. The rider speculated that the decision might not be solely based on athletic performance. "At TDT-Unibet, it's also about more than just racing, and I may not be able to market myself as effectively as other riders, but I do win races. I think it's a weak excuse to suggest that I can't handle the level."
Tietema clarifies that riders are not signed based on their appearance on camera. 'To provide an example: Joren Bloem (a rider on the team) doesn't even have a social media presence. It is by no means a requirement. We craft a narrative about the team, and riders play either main or supporting roles in it. If a rider can leverage that for their benefit, that's fantastic, but it's certainly not obligatory. For instance, one of our new riders, Cedrik Bakke Christophersen, has his own YouTube channel. We aim to support and facilitate it, but if a rider prefers not to engage, that's perfectly fine.
In Vandevelde's case, it wasn't a deciding factor either. "If Yentl felt that way, so be it. However, from our perspective, it's quite straightforward: how someone presents themselves on social media has zero impact on their progression within our team."