Bas Tietema: From YouTube star to the professional peloton

How a hit YouTube channel helped the Dutchman realise a life-long dream.

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You may have seen Bas Tietema’s YouTube videos from the Tour de France. Handing out 100 pizzas on the Champs-Elysées, the wheelie contest which actually got him banned from the Tour de France, or challenges like riding up Mont Ventoux on an old fixed-gear Dutch city bike

This year, the 27-year-old Dutchman has set a whole new challenge. He has joined the pro ranks with the Bingoal-Pauwels Sauzen-WB ProTeam and just completed his first pro race at the Tour of Antalya. 

“With Tour de Tietema [his YouTube channel] we already did a lot of bike-related challenges and even rode amateur races together last year,” he tells me with a smile. “That meant I was training to not make a fool of myself in those videos.

“When I noticed I was able to ride at the front in those amateur races and enjoy myself again on the bike in a race we came up with the challenge to train an entire winter. However, I do need a goal to train, so together with Bingoal, who sponsor Tour de Tietema, we came up with the ultimate challenge and that is to become a professional rider.”

This is not something that came out of nothing. After a career with the development team of local professional first-division football club PEC Zwolle, Tietema picked up the bike after an injury made him quit football. He developed into one of the strongest juniors of his generation in the Netherlands and came third in the U23 Paris-Roubaix when he was just 19 and part of the BMC development team.

When that team folded Tietema was struggling with a skin condition and with motivation. He rode another two seasons for third-division teams An Post and Beat Cycling before ending his career. His dream to become a pro cyclist never materialised.

“I was at the back of the bunch a lot,” he says of those years. “It was not fun because you are not part of the game anymore. When you are good you can play the cycling game but when you are not it’s a vicious cycle: skin problem, less training, bad results, less fun etc.”

Tietema training with the Bingoal-Pauwels Sauzen-WB team.

Tietema already had some ideas in his mind of how to use social media in the world of cycling. He launched the Tour de Tietema YouTube channel with friend Josse Wester and Devin van der Wiel in 2019 and they made waves with their roadside videos.

When Tietema announced his challenge to try to become a pro cyclist with Bingoal, many deemed it a media stunt, helped by the shared sponsor.

“I understand the question and think it’s a logical one to ask,” Tietema says. “The professional level is a very high level and many really decent riders never get to sign that pro contract. It’s true that the Bingaol sponsorship is a stepping stone but it also means more pressure. It’s a bit like being the son of the coach of your football team. You have to prove yourself a bit more.” 

It wasn’t set in stone when Tietema embarked on his training journey in October that he would make it to the pro team. The first three videos that are now online show the tests he had to do both in the lab and during a December training camp in Spain. 

“I really had to show the team I had the level,” he says. “In the beginning I made these huge steps up. I had so much ground to make up compared to my teammates. I lost the weight and gained the watts, even up to 35 watts during one training camp. That is huge compared to the gains the other riders made. We are now finding out what my level is and whether it’s enough to be a professional rider.” 

The first signs were clearly good enough for team management. Being out of the peloton for over three years meant some adjusting and he was missing some endurance, but the Belgian team deemed Tietema’s progress good enough to add him to the team.

“The paperwork with the UCI was only completed at the end of January,” he recalls. “The pro level is a high level, also, and maybe especially for the second-tier teams like Bingoal-Pauwels Sauzen-WB where everyone works and lives 100% for the sport too. I want to show that in our videos too.

“I made it to the team and that is great. Everyone now says how awesome it all is but it also could have been a total fluke and then there would have been a lot of criticism for me and the team too. The videos now show the personalities behind the riders who would normally be a name on ProCyclingStats, so it works both ways as well.”

Tietema’s first race was the Tour of Antalya where he helped his teammate Luc Wirtgen to third place in the overall classification. 

“I wasn’t expected to be among the best riders in my first race,” he recalls. “But I could do my job for the team. It helps I have previous race experience. In the pro peloton the level is so high that you need to save as much as you can. When you do 55 km/h you can’t afford going through the wind like you would in the younger categories because it means you can’t do your job later on.

“Although it wasn’t the highest level of races, I showed I know how to ride a bike,” Tietema continues. “This race was also ideal to ease back into the pro peloton. Starting in the Belgian Classics where it’s full gas from the start would have been more stressful, I think.” 

Tietema’s next races are Kuurne-Brussel-Kuurne this weekend, GP Le Samyn, Elfstedenronde Fryslân, Profronde van Drenthe, GP de Denain, and Bredene Koksijde Classic. 

“If I had failed miserably in Antalya things would have looked different and I probably would have ended up with their development team,” he says. “Now I got a great program that will enable me to show what I can do for the team as a rider.”

The team hasn’t expressed long-term expectations from the Dutchman and is instead looking at his progress race by race.

“That’s what I do too,” he says. “The goal this year is to keep making progress as a rider and show I am worthy of being a pro cyclist. The team takes into account I am new and we evaluate after every race.” 

Tietema has often expressed his love for Paris-Roubaix. He came in third, 10th, and 11th in the U23 version. The team received a wildcard to the Queen of Classics. 

“It would be great if I could be there,” he says. “It would be like full circle to me but again, I don’t know yet. It all depends on my results in the races I get to do now. If they are a success, who knows what will happen? I could even do the biggest races in April then.” 

Leaving the peloton then coming back via a different route has given Tietema a unique perspective on the sport. He is still the same powerful rider he was in his early years but he has found more balance.

“When I was at BMC, cycling was all I had,” he admits. “Now I have the YouTube channel, our website, cycling club and web shop as well next to my cycling career. It gives me energy to travel to races with our staff, with the people that I have become friends with as well.

“The forced end to my first career gave me the ability to try a second career in media. Now the two have come together and reinforce each other. That’s the best thing. There are so many stories to be told from inside the peloton this year. And if, in the end, I do not succeed I don’t have to go on endlessly because I have nothing else in my life.

“Everything has really fallen into place now.”