After spending nearly his entire career with Patrick Lefevere's Quick-Step squad, Tom Boonen has signed on to work with the rival Belgian squad Lotto Soudal as an advisor and ambassador to its "Captains of Cycling" supporters programme, which also serves as a fundraiser for Belgian cycling.
Boonen, 37, who retired after the 2017 edition of Paris-Roubaix, is not planning to be in the team car or at races, but will be available to the squad's riders for advice before and after races in addition to advocating for the Captains of Cycling programme.
"This will not be a complete surprise," Tom Boonen said to Sporza. After all, the Lotto Soudal General Manager Paul De Geyter is Boonen's former agent, and its bike sponsor Ridley employs Boonen's father André.
Despite the familiarity, Boonen said he still had trepidations joining the programme. "I was a little nervous and I thought it was also a bit strange," he said.
"On the other hand, my career started with [directeur sportif] Marc Sergeant 20 years ago, he planted the idea in my mind that I could become a professional, he was my first serious team leader."
Boonen expressed a keen interest in the Captains of Cycling project and said he can make more of a difference at Lotto Soudal than if he had signed on with Lefevere.
"Paul has been a very good friend of mine for 20 years, he has always defended my interests, and so that step has been a bit less big for me, otherwise it would have been impossible to stand here", Boonen said. "I think I can do something better for Belgian racing than at Quick-Step."
De Geyter took over from Sergeant as general manager in September 2017 after several lacklustre seasons in which the team struggled in the Classics. The squad have not won a Monument since Philippe Gilbert's last season with them in 2011.
Boonen will help De Geyter further improve the team. "I'll be there to reorganize the team and give advice to the riders who need it. I'm here for them, there are a lot of riders on the team who can do great things, they have to do the right things. I'm here to look for the right direction," Boonen said, according to RTBF.be.