May 16, 2023

Classified Factory Team - Piotr Havik Interview

To mark the announcement of Classified’s new gravel cycling team, in partnership with Foodmaker, Ridley and DT-Swiss, we sat down with lead rider Piotr Havik to learn more about the Dutch rider and the team’s goals for 2023.

Classified: Welcome to the Classified Factory Racing powered by Food Maker! Let’s get straight into it - what are your main goals for the 2023 season with the Classified Factory team?

Piotr Havik: The biggest goals are definitely Unbound in Kansas and World Championships in Italy. We are also looking to the 2024 World Championships in Belgium as well, if I qualify of course. The two main goals for 2023 are well timed in the season, with Unbound in June and the World Championships in Oct, I have two peaking points in the season.

How do you see the partnership with Classified, Food Maker, Ridley and DT Swiss helping you to achieve these goals?

Classified will be a really big gain and something a bit new in the world of high level gravel racing. I think the main extra benefits are having the wider gearing range without the risk of chain drop. In last year’s races the route recons were a bit of a guessing game when it came to gearing. One of my favourite things about gravel racing is a bit of unpreparedness and having to make a calculation about the gearing for each parcours. In my road racing days, everything was a lot more planned out and surgical – there were no surprises. I much prefer this in the gravel world – there’s more adventure and more skill needed, including choice of the best mechanical innovations and solutions. For me Classified is a game changing innovation.

Foodmaker will also be a big help this year.  I’ve not used them before, but I’m very aware of the importance of eating healthily for performance. In my pro career we didn’t have an app or coach to take care of nutrition. The Foodmaker app makes this so much easier with tailored insights, it allows you to trust the process and removes all the guess work. But for me the best thing about the service is that everything is delivered to you – this is great for a pro.

How did the partnership with Classified come about?

I entered gravel as an individual athlete last year after retiring from pro cycling. I actually wanted to reach out to Classified after learning about the product, but I didn’t feel good enough. I felt like I needed to prove myself with results.

After the 2022 World Championships I didn’t have any prospects to carry on at highest level, despite good results. Maybe it was fate, but the Classified opportunity came through at the beginning of this year and my plan to work with the team worked out. I’m very happy about that.

So, working with Classified has been like a lifeline to continue racing?

For sure, working with Classified has allowed me keep racing at the level I want to be at.

The plan is for 3 years of development. For me riding with Classified is a journey, to develop the team, develop myself and to help feedback and develop the Classified system.

You retired from pro cycling in 2021 after searching for a team. That must have been hard?

It was very hard. In that moment I was 27, feeling like I was in the form of my life. In the years before I felt like I showed results at pro continental and world tour level as a domestique. There is a lot of pressure in the top segment, not only about pushing yourself. Riders have a specialism and if a spot is not free, then you have to wait for another year. There are three pro levels all mixed together at a race, and the Pro-Conti riders not always paid, yet still racing against likes of Evenepoel. Trying to balance work and life is incredibly hard. Seeing interviews with the like of Nathan Haas, showing the potential of gravel, made me see another path. I always liked the road gravel rides like Tro Bro Leon.

There was a sore period after stopping as an athlete. In your mind you’re wanting to work towards races like Flanders but without a team you feel a bit lost. I took the decision to start 2022 as a privateer. I had a marketing job, I was borrowing a rental bike, I paid for own races. It was tough, and even with a 12th place at the Worlds & a victory in UCI series, I still ended the season with an uncertain future.

How do you feel about the future now?

I feel really good about this season. Road cycling is very up and down, with teams and sponsors dropping out, and athletes being left with uncertain futures. The gravel scene feels more stable for athletes, companies, and teams. I’ve always enjoyed sharing my feedback, knowledge, and experience with teams and sponsors, but it was always rare that they ask for it.  With Classified and Foodmaker, it’s different; we feel like partners, and we can help each other. It’s part of a bigger plan and I feel cared for as much as I care for everyone. For instance, as well as taking on the biggest races, I’m very excited about the Classified club. I love to encourage other riders and share more of my knowledge. Hopefully a lot of people will join the club and take part in the group rides and events, so I can help them with advice and knowledge about the product.  

You have already raced with the Powershift system, placing 14th at the Traka race in Girona. How was the race and how did the system perform?

I was disappointed with the overall result because I had multiple punctures. But my legs felt great and the Classified hub was flawless. A long and hard race like The Traka 360 was the best way for me to push the system to the max. It's a race that involves everything: fast competitors, rocky hills, sharp corners, single tracks and river crossings. A couple of times I had to shift fast, due some unexpected changes in tempo and crashes in front of me. Thanks to Classified there was no risk of chain dropping, or even worse, chain braking in those situations. On the climbs I was blessed with a lighter gear in comparison to the competition. Which saves you a lot of energy and muscle tension on a ride of 367k. And I was even more lucky on the flat parts with wind in the back, where I could speed up above 50k/h and hurt my competitors again. I’m very excited for future races!

What for you is the number one benefit of the Classified system?

For me it’s the extended gear range and lack of risk of chain drop during the race. This can be race ending. Last year I only raced 1x, but I thought about going to a traditional 2x set up, but the risks are too great. With Classified you get the benefits 2x gearing without any of the risks of a front derailleur. It’s the best of both worlds.  

Why do you think the Classified system works so well in gravel riding/racing?

The endurance of gravel races is a huge factor. The races are long for everyone, especially for amateurs. Resistance is also always high on a gravel ride because of the terrain, so energy saving is of the highest importance. Having an efficient drivetrain is a huge benefit for a 6+ hour ride. This is where the Classified system makes a massive difference.

You had some great results in the 2022 season. Looking back, is there any point in the year where you think having Powershift Technology would've helped you?

You’re not always sure what is coming in the race due to recon ability and timing. One example was at Wishone Gravel Race in Millau, I was in the breakaway with Niki Terpstra and another competitor. On first glance it looked like the Parcours reasonable flat, with nothing steeper than 6%. Niki had been there for 5 days and done a full recon, he knew that there was a 20% climb and updated his gearing to account for this. I hadn’t done a full recon, but I wanted to save my legs, so I also added a bigger range before the race started. When we got to the 20% climb, we were both able to deal with it, but our breakaway companion had the wrong gearing and had to walk the climb. He wasn’t able to get back and couldn’t compete for the podium. It could easily have been me. Having the gearing range available with Classified would make this not an issue. Something I’m very excited about for this season.

Your next race is Unbound in the USA – is the standard just getting better as gravel gets more popular?

Unbound will be on a high level, it’s one of the biggest races of the year. But I’m also excited for the other events in the calendar, which bring out the high level competitors from the local region, from the road and MTB scene. In road it’s very calculated – you know your competitors, the field for each race is similar. In gravel it’s more exciting, more unknown and the pure racer must come out. Cycling is more interesting now. I started at riding at 7 years old in MTB, then in road competitions. I then tried track and then cyclocross. The love of the bike is what’s important, whatever the discipline. I think we’re seeing this with the big stars entering different events and disciplines. I hope this is the future.

So, with Classified now having products in road, gravel and MTB, are you considering any other disciplines this year? A return to a road race? Maybe a mountain bike event?

If I can ride one of the Classified mountain bikes with the Powershift Boost hub then I’d be really keen. I will also be doing some road races in preparation for gravel events. These will be picked based on what I need to work on – fast races, puncher climbs etc. Also instead of going on training camp for 5 days I’d like to go bike packing. Getting the adventure part as well as doing the hours and efforts. Riding should be for fun – that’s the main thing.

Thanks for taking the time to sit down with us Piotr – good luck at Unbound in June and for the rest of the season.

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Written by
David Bavin-Hobbs