Today, the 63rd edition of Nokere Koerse will take place, and one rider not on the start is defending champion Leon van Bon. After the end of his stay with Rabobank, van Bon decided to join the Marco Polo team, which has the quest to help riders from non-cycling countries get a chance to ride to the limelight. However, they did not get an invitation for Nokere Koerse.
Van Bon told Sportwereld that the non-invite is "not a problem. I am having fun in other parts of the world." Still, it can't detract from the pain he is feeling by not getting his contract renewed at Rabobank. "[In 2007] I had the same amount of placings than in previous years," van Bon pointed out. He was generally racing as a domestique, so opportunities like in the 2007 Nokere Koerse, where he won after a solo effort, do not always come by easily.
Trying to find a new team wasn't easy, either. The 36 year-old Dutch champion of 2005 often heard the answer that he is "from the rotten generation. The generation of the dopers. Well, that's the opinion of the masses and as a rider you are helpless against it." After the ProTour teams opted for the younger riders, the only option left would have been a Continental team, "but with all due respect to Nokere Koerse, I didn't want to make that the highlight of my season," said the twice-Tour de France stage winner.
So van Bon opted for Asia, where his passion for cycling and photography could find new objectives. He is acting as a directeur sportif, together with compatriot Bart Brentjens. Most of their races are on Asian soil, such as the Tour de Langkawi, where many European professionals race. Yan Xing Dong got third on stage 3 of this year's edition. Fuyu Li finished ninth in the Asian rider classification.
The Marco Polo diaries will soon start up again on Cyclingnews. To recap their 2007 season, read the archived entries.