The WorldTour era may be one of ever-increasing specialisation, with more and more riders targeting specific sections of the calendar to flesh out their UCI points tallies, but for much of the sprinting fraternity, the mantra remains more or less unchanged – win often and win early.
Certainly, it is a philosophy that Theo Bos will again follow in 2013. The Dutch sprinter enjoyed his best road season to date last year, but rather than look to build his campaign around the Grand Tours this time around, Bos is aiming to place regular deposits in Blanco Pro Cycling’s wins column throughout the season.
“Of course, it’s a big goal for every rider and sprinter to do well in a Grand Tour but I think I have to be good from January to October,” Bos told Cyclingnews. “Hopefully I can pick up a Grand Tour stage win along the way but I think it’s important not to focus too much on one Grand Tour. You could sacrifice two stage races with four sprint stages to do training camps to prepare for the Grand Tour, but then you could go there and get sick on the second day. That’s not smart.”
Bos points to Mark Cavendish as one of the very few sprinters whose talents are such that he can afford to focus on the quality of his wins rather than the quantity alone. “But I’m not in that situation,” said Bos, who will begin his season at the Trofeo Mallorca, before heading on to the Tour de Langkawi. “They’re two preparation races where you get some good work in with the team and see how it all unravels,” he said. “It’s important if you can pick up a nice victory there.”
With Blanco Pro Cycling seeking a new title sponsor to replace Rabobank, who announced its withdrawal from the sport in October, the onus is on the team to start the season strongly to help attract new backers. Much of the early responsibility will fall on the sprinting department, where Bos must dovetail his efforts with Mark Renshaw.
When two sprinters cohabit the same team, one is always primed for a clash of egos, but Bos pointed out that he and Renshaw form one of a number of such double acts in the WorldTour, and he feels that they complement rather than compete with one another.
“I don’t think it has to be a problem and I think last season it went pretty well whenever we raced together,” Bos said. “The thing is that Mark and me are different kinds of sprinters: Mark is more of a Degenkolb whereas I’m more like Kittel.
“Mark can survive a lot of climbs but for me it has to be a flat, fast race. I can’t survive a third category climb 10k before the finish, or at least, I have to be in really, really good form. Mark is more certain for those sprints, so it’s a case that he’ll be the man for those and I’ll be the man for flat, fast races.”
2012 was Bos’ fourth season on the road after switching from the track following the Beijing Olympics, and while his seven wins last year suggest he is beginning to find his place in the peloton, the 29-year-old believes there is still ample margin for improvement.
“I’m still not where I can be or where I want to be,” he said. “In the first years, I was still thinking like a track sprinter. I did training that I never did before, like threshold training. As a sprinter you never do that – you go at a really high heart rate but it’s only a peak. Now, I do that in a road race for maybe an hour. That’s a zone I never came into on the track but it’s a zone in road cycling that’s absolutely essential.”
For Bos, the key is to strike a balance between retaining his natural speed and meeting the exigencies of racing over long distances.
“In terms of endurance, my level was lower than a junior when I started on the road but then my sprint was exceptional for a road cyclist,” he said. “It’s been a question of trying to find a balance between improving endurance and staying strong in the sprint. And I got the feeling last year that I now know what to do to balance between endurance and sprinting. I know what I have to do to be at my best shape. It’s a nice feeling you know. I have a grip on the situation.”