An interview with Theo Bos, November 29, 2007
There is one word synonymous with the name Theo Bos, and that word is speed. Bos, a three-time World Champion in the sprint owns the record for the flying lap, which he set in Moscow last year, but after his dream of Olympic gold was denied in 2004 by Australian Ryan Bayley, Bos is on track to get revenge in Beijing next year. Brian Crawford of Cycling NSW caught up with Bos as he was training in Sydney.
Dutchman Theo Bos received a gift from his parents. Clearly, his DNA is endowed with a secret code for unleashing a stunning turn of speed from a bicycle, and he's made good use out of that gift. The 24 year-old went far beyond his older brother Jan's two world championships in speed skating, but has yet to match Jan's two Olympic medals.
In 2004, Theo Bos was set to contend for Olympic gold in the sprint in Athens. After taking a somewhat controversial sprint world championship by defeating Ryan Bayley in the semi-finals, where Bayley protested a move by Bos to no avail, the pair had a rematch in Athens.
Forced to lead in the third and final race, Bos tried to open a gap with an early jump, but the move backfired and Bayley caught and passed the 21 year-old Bos to take the gold medal. Since then, Bos has led a life of single-minded devotion to his sport in preparation for Beijing. He's gone on to world titles in the kilometre time trial (2005), keirin (2006) and sprint (2006, 2007), as well as numerous World Cup titles and European championships.
"We have to qualify through the World Cups, so the World Cups are more important than before." -Bos on the new qualification criteria for the Olympics.
Yet, every time Bos and Bayley meet on the boards, it's hard not to think about that day in August and read a rivalry into the race. "I think it's because of the Olympics (2004), and every time we race together it's a more loaded race than other races especially for the crown," explained Bos. "But I just try to focus on myself and during these races and try to improve myself and not to look so much to other races."
Bos had been respected since winning his first world championship in 2004, but has matured into a true star in the past two years - racking up consistent results in the keirin and sprint after abandoning the kilo when it was dropped from the Olympic program. Beijing will be his first Olympics since setting the international scene on fire, and he arrived in Sydney in mid-November where he's enjoying training in the warm Australian weather.
"Training is going well, I arrived last week here in Sydney," Bos said, preferring the sunshine outside Sydney's Dunc Gray Velodrome to the cold weather back in the Netherlands. "It's pretty cold [there], so it's a good venue for us to train here."
Hard at work getting ready for the World Cup which will begin on November 30, Bos is already measuring himself against his own expectations. "My times are OK, we have to see what the competition are up to this next weekend." He will not, however, be measuring up against his 'rival', Ryan Bayley, in the match sprint.
"I am racing the Team Sprint and the Keirin," Bos explained. "I don't know what Ryan will race, I think he will be racing also the Keirin, and he's always a very strong rider and I always keep a good eye on him, but he's not the only one," Bos played down the focus on himself and Bayley. "There are several other world class riders here. I don't pick out one particular rider. The level is always growing and there are a bunch of riders who could go for the victory."
Sydney will be an important step for all the track riders in getting to Beijing, as riders must get points in the World Cup competitions in order to earn a spot on the Olympic team for their country.
"I think this World Cup will be very strongly occupied and it will be a different qualification system than for Athens," Bos commented. "We have to qualify through the World Cups, so the World Cups are more important than before, and all riders know that and I think everybody is focused on this World Cup."
Bos plans to focus on the first two World Cup rounds, in Sydney and Beijing, to qualify for the Olympic Games. "I think for us it will be possible to qualify there [Sydney] and in Beijing for the Olympics. Our team is really strong and we feel really good, we will have to see what the other riders will do. If everything goes OK, I think it won't be a problem for us."
Fans hoping to see Bos rocket around the track trying to beat his flying 200m record in Sydney will be disappointed. Bos holds the world 200m record at 9.772 which he set at last year's Moscow's round of the World Cup. He'll surely try again to do a sub-10 second time in the future. "I hope so, but not here in Sydney," Bos said about trying for a sub-10 second 200. "I'm not riding the sprint here in this World Cup, I'm doing Team Sprint and Keirin. I hold the track record here, 10.6 I think, and it's a very quick time but unfortunately I'm not riding the sprint here."
It's not for lack of speed that Bos will sit out the sprint. "I think my level will be the same or even better than Moscow this year, that's the goal so the target will be quicker than 9.7," Bos explained. "But it also depends on the track you are riding, Moscow is a very quick, very fast track, so it's depends on the track you are riding on."
While in Sydney, Bos trains a bit with Australian fast man Ben Kersten. The two gained some unique experience by training for the keirin in the place where it originated - in Japan. The style of racing in Japan is quite different from what is seen in UCI keirins.
"Every year I come for one month to Sydney before the World Cup and I train with Gary Sutton here, and he's very hospitable, and also with Ben. He's a very strong rider - we raced against each other in Japan with the keirin races so we've known each other for a long time."
Even though Bos and Kersten compete against each other in the keirin and team sprint, there is a good rapport between the two after their shared experience in Japan, and training together has benefitted both. "It was good to have a little bit competition in the training - it was good and we both were getting profits from it. We make each other strong I think.
Kersten and Bos will both have additional skills they picked up at the International Japanese Keirin school this year, which should lead to an interesting race come World Cup time. "Technically it's very difficult to race in Japan and you learn every race something and you can use this knowledge in the World Cups. I think and probably Ben's doing that, he will be a big opponent for me."