The newly formulated Roompot-Charles team have signed Lars Boom for the 2019 season, bolstering the roster for the Dutch-Belgian Pro Continental squad that will be a merger of the Roompot-Nederlandse Loterij and Veranda’s Willems-Crelan teams.
The 32-year-old Dutchman, who raced with LottoNL-Jumbo the past two season after two years with Astana, was suspended for one month in July after striking Sport Vlaanderen’s Preben Van Hecke during stage 2 of the Tour of Norway in May. He returned to racing in August for the Tour de Pologne, Binck Bank Tour and Vuelta a Espana.
The Veranda’s Willems-Crelan team have had a turbulent season of their own, with the Belgian Pro Continental team first denying an announcement that it had been acquired by Aqua Blue Sport, then announcing a merger with the Dutch Roompot squad. During the turmoil, star rider Wout van Aert severed ties with the team and their Sniper Cycling management company.
Landing Boom is a sign the merger between the two teams is indeed moving full steam ahead toward next year.
"I still know Lars from the past and am very happy to have someone with his experience and abilities," said team director Erik Breukink. "He is a very big reinforcement for the team next year. He brings peace and experience that will undoubtedly have a positive influence on the other boys."
Boom is a former cyclo-cross world champion and the double Dutch road and time trial champion, all in 2008. He has won stages in the Vuelta a Espana and Tour de France, and he's taken overall victories at the Tour of Belgium, the Eneco Tour and twice at the Tour of Britain.
He said the move to the Pro Continental team from the WorldTour will allow him to focus on the Classics and should be viewed as a step sideways rather than as a step down.
"I want to show that I can drive finals in the classics," he said in a statement released by the team. "I have the ambition to drive deep into the final and preferably from the beginning of the Classic season, the Omloop Het Nieuwsblad, to Paris-Roubaix. This is not a step back for me, but a step sideways. I want to drive for victories again and will be well surrounded for that."
Five Belgians and a Dutch rider will come to the team from Veranda's, while six Dutch and one Belgian rider will return from Roompot, making a strong team for the early spring races Boom and the team want to target. The team have also added Belgian Michael Van Staeyen from Cofidis.
"The boys who come from Belgium have the experience in the kind of races that are important for the team," Boom said of the 2019 Roompot-Charles roster. "It will be a nice complete group. Especially when there are still a few guys coming. I also expect a combative group, as they have already shown at Roompot and Veranda's Willems-Crelan."
Boom won't be waiting to start his preparation for the 2019 Classics, saying he'll jump back into cyclo-cross races beginning in January.
"I will incorporate cross training in my preparation," he said. "That will be good for my spring and my general development. The past period I have regularly been on a mountain bike and trained on the 'cross bike, but it will still require some adjustments. Cyclo-cross has changed and I have also changed as a rider. But I am happy with it."