‘The ultimate goal is the Tour de France’ - How Tour de Tietema went from YouTube pranks to pro ranks

TDT-Unibet are on a mission to reach the top of the sport, and they're having fun along the way

TDT-Unibet riders at the Tour of Britain
(Image credit: SWPix)

Tour de Tietema-Unibet may not have won any stages at this year’s Tour of Britain, but they have won hearts. 

The Dutch Continental team, classified in cycling’s third tier, has been omnipresent at the race, the squad's sky blue jersey a constant in breakaways. 

For a team in its first year, exposure is key. In fact, so keen are the riders to be on show, that they’ve won four of the seven combativity awards so far by public vote. 

The prize, the team’s owner Bas Tietema admits, is a popularity contest. And TDT-Unibet are winning. 

“We have not been the most combative rider in each of those stages,” Tietema laughs as he speaks to Cycling Weekly on a still summer’s morning in Southend-on-Sea. “But what you can see is that we have actual fans. It’s not just TV spectators, we have actual fans who want us to win the prize.” 

It’s hard to believe that, up until last year, Tietema was just a YouTuber. Together with his friends Josse Wesster and Devin van der Wiel, he would follow the Tour de France each July, filming challenges with riders and posting tightly-cut videos to his 170,000 subscribers. 

“We started at the Tour de France in 2019, just making silly challenges, like wheelie contests and handing out pizzas,” he explains. “Right now, we’re a Continental team that’s pretty competitive, and next year we’re stepping up to Pro Conti."

On their YouTube page, TDT-Unibet describe themselves as a "Sunday-league team with WorldTour stature". This is clear on the seafront in Southend, where the riders laugh and joke ahead of stage six, surrounded by colourfully-wrapped Škodas and a high-tech camper. 

The idea to build a squad, Tietema says, came about a few years ago. 

“The first time I told [Wesster] about it was 2020, I guess,” he says. Poised beside him with a camera, Wesster quickly interjects. “Back then it was a really stupid idea,” he smiles. 

For Tietema, though, it was never a joke. “I really believed that from creating a YouTube channel, you get fans and you get people who follow your agenda. Setting up a professional cycling team with fans is way better, in my opinion, than just starting a team and hoping that you get fans by good results. I thought it could be a really nice, smooth transition.”

Already, the YouTube channel had sponsors. Big ones, too, like Shimano, Garmin, Cannondale and Škoda. The challenge came in finding riders, and more crucially, convincing them that the guys who do “silly” YouTube videos were serious about racing.

TDT-Unibet riders at the Tour of Britain

Harry Tanfield signs on in Sherwood Forest, ahead of stage four of the Tour of Britain. 

(Image credit: SWPix)

One of those who came on board was 28-year-old former WorldTour rider Harry Tanfield, who was searching for a new team after Ribble Weldtite folded last year.

“It’s quite hard when you’ve got established teams and then Bas’s,” the Brit says. “I was like, ‘What’s happening here?’ but in the end, I just went with it. And it’s good fun. I don’t regret it at all."

Having previously ridden for AG2R and Katusha-Alpecin, Tanfield feels like he has been "around the block" in the pro scene. His current team, he says, brings "a different perspective on racing". 

"You may have seen from the social media side of things and content wise," Tanfield smiles. "It's really engaging for us." 

At the Tour of Britain, TDT-Unibet’s social media team have played a blinder. Alongside their campaigns to rule over the combativity award, they’ve created endless memes, photoshopping Tanfield’s face onto Thomas the Tank Engine, and producing a Britain’s Got Talent-inspired video. 

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“We have almost more media employees than [rider] staff,” Tietema explains. “That’s the core. We need to have them. It also makes, from the start, the costs higher than maybe some other Continental teams. But we needed to make that investment.” 

The results, too, are coming. In June, the team took their first victory with a stage win at the ZLM Tour in the Netherlands, beating a field that included sprint legend Mark Cavendish. At the Tour of Britain, their sprinter Davide Bomboi, second cousin of Tom Boonen, has scored five top 10s, brushing shoulders with WorldTour stars. 

Davide Bomboi in the sea at the Tour of Britain

Davide Bomboi cools down in Felixstowe. 

(Image credit: SWPix)

When the 23-year-old signed for the team, he saw an opportunity to prove himself. “In this period last year, I didn’t have a contract,” Bomboi says. “I was aiming for a professional contract, but no team came. Then Bas came with this project, and I thought it was a great chance for me.

“With everything that comes with it, the content team and how we do everything with the videos and stuff, it’s just fucking nice. We have a really nice look and feel, I think, but there’s also a real plan behind it. We’re not just here with the colourful bikes.” 

The plan going forwards, Tietema reveals, is ambitious. Next season, TDT-Unibet will be a Pro Continental team, racing in the tier below the sport’s highest level, the WorldTour. Already, they’ve been flirting with race organisers for invites to some of the biggest events. 

“My ultimate goal is to bring the team to the Tour de France,” Tietema says, matter of factly. “Then we’ll have the journey that we started at the Tour de France with our own tents, to having a team on the Champs-Élysées.

“We have milestones along that road. Next year, we want to do our first WorldTour race, then a Monument, then the first Grand Tour. It’s quite crazy, and it’s far, but it’s also in reach. The last year it was more like a crazy, stupid idea to even think about it, but it’s getting more realistic.” 

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Tom Davidson
News and Features Writer

Tom joined Cycling Weekly as a news and features writer in the summer of 2022, having previously contributed as a freelancer. He is the host of The TT Podcast, which covers both the men's and women's pelotons and has featured a number of prominent British riders. 

An enthusiastic cyclist himself, Tom likes it most when the road goes uphill and actively seeks out double-figure gradients on his rides. 

He's also fluent in French and Spanish and holds a master's degree in International Journalism.