By Kirsten Robbins in Jefferson City, Missouri
Boy van Poppel took his first professional win for Rabobank much in the same way his father Jean-Paul 'Popeye' van Poppel would have a decade earlier in a heated sprint finish. The 20-year old said that his victory marked his 'best race ever.' "What more can I say, it's the first big win," said the former junior world cyclo-cross champion whose cycling career flourished under his fathers guidance.
"When I knew Cavendish wasn't there I had more morale to sprint. I was thinking 'this is my chance, I have to do this.' It makes me feel very good to win a race. But, I would be happy if I could do half of what he [Jean-Paul] did."
Van Poppel admitted that growing up with a world-renowned cyclist for a father made his transition into cycling, at the age of ten, very simple. "I saw all the other kids out riding, so I thought it would be fun to do that too. Then I saw the same kids out doing cyclo-cross in the winter so I did that too. I just had a lot of fun with cycling."
The multi-talented rider fell ill before the start of his prized event in this year's Tour of Normandy. He crashed shortly after that and was eliminated him from a second series of events for Rabobank.
"I do the whole road season and then I ride just a few cross races," he said regarding a short recovery after the Tour if Missouri he will have before taking on eight cyclo-cross events this winter. "The road is important for me. I know that I will compete in very few 'cross races but that's all I need to do before the big one – The world championships in Hoogerheide, at home."
Having the world cyclo-cross championships in his home country will provide a good opportunity for Van Poppel Sr. to watch his son compete against best of the best. Jean-Paul was one of the most successful Dutch road sprinters, a nine-time stage winner at the Tour de France. He is the current manager for the women's Flexpoint team, but recently announced his new title as Director Sportif for the new Cervélo-test team in 2009.