By Bjorn Haake in Schoten, Belgium
Rabobank rider Jan Boven finished his last race as a professional when he arrived 91st in the Scheldeprijs Vlaanderen, 90 places behind winner Mark Cavendish. The 36 year-old Dutchman tackled the Belgian race with the same emotions as always.
"It feels normal, like every other race I go to," he confirmed to Cyclingnews before the race, where he donned dossard number 41, indicating him as a team leader even though he was at the service of Graeme Brown. "Maybe at the finish it'll be different, but even the days before it was the same as any other days before a race."
The hardworking rider received a little more attention than usual in his last race, especially by the Dutch and Belgian press. He has been a solid and constant factor in the orange team. "I started with Rabobank when they were starting; that was my first year as a pro."
He stayed with the team throughout his 13-year career, conceding, "Nobody asked me [to switch to another team]. But I was riding with really great riders like Erik Dekker, Michael Boogerd, Oscar Freire and [Juan Antonio] Flecha. That was for me the perfect team."
Realising his past tense sentence, he emphasised "It is the perfect team for me," Boven added. He will form part of the team management. "Now, I can continue, doing almost the same, although not on the bike." He will not have much of a break. "I start a new job next week. I go to a training [camp] with the guys. I go the Tour de Romandie as second team manager." Moreover, stressing that the day is neither unusual nor special for him, he added, "For me it's not a big deal – stopping."
The Scheldeprijs Vlaanderen passed his Belgian residence in Minderhout, 50 kilometres from the start. "Yes, we come almost by my house." However, he was quick to point out that there wouldn't be any temptation to step off the bike, even if it had been raining. "I never stopped so easy in a race. For sure, I am not stepping off today, at least not under normal conditions."
It is that attitude that made him such a useful team worker for Rabobank. All the captains that have come and gone over the years appreciated Boven's labour, always putting back his own ambitions. His career started out with a win in the 1996 Teleflex Tour. "I beat Tyler Hamilton," he laughed. This was to be his only win in his long career that was marked more by his team support than his victories.