Last year it was Lars Boom who took the overall victory at the Eneco Tour on the final day on the Muur of Geraadsbergen. This year, the 27-year-old Dutch Belkin rider has made a major goal of the WorldTour stage race through Belgium and the Netherlands.
"It's going to be a hard race this week," Boom told Cyclingnews. "The first stages are flat but the wind on the Belgian coast may play a very important role."
This July Belkin Procycling played a pivotal role in the Tour de France stage to Saint Armand Montrond where, as echelons formed in the gusty conditions, Alejandro Valverde (Movistar) lost 10 minutes and Bauke Mollema rose to the second place in the overall classification. Lars Boom was part of that Tour de France team.
"Our team here is strong enough, just like it was in France," he said. "We make the race together and are really willing to work for each other. If the first stages result in echelons we know what to do but we also have got a sprinter's team. Normally they won't surprise me with echelons but I also need the legs to stay at the front."
After the Tour de France where Boom worked in support of team captains Mollema and Laurens ten Dam, he took some time off.
"I spent time with my girlfriend Niké and our daughter Kee," he explained. "I also rode some post-Tour criteriums and tried to rest as much as possible. Then I started training again to rebuild my form towards this race."
Belkin has a team with two objectives in the Eneco Tour. With Theo Bos, Graeme Brown and Mark Renshaw the team takes a strong sprint train to the start in Koksijde. For the overall classification the Dutch outfit presents two captains: Boom and Wilco Kelderman.
The young Dutchman Kelderman won his first stage race as pro rider in Denmark last week.
"I think Wilco and I make each other stronger. We can help each other," Boom said. The squad is completed by strong men like Maarten Tjallingii, Jos van Emden and road captain Bram Tankink.
The Eneco Tour starts with stages which look to be designed for the sprinters but presents a tough final weekend with a 13.2 kilometre time trial between Sittard and Geleen in the Dutch province of Limburg, a Saturday stage which includes La Redoute in the Belgian Ardennes and finish on the Muur of Geraardsbergen on Sunday.
In June Boom claimed victory at the Ster ZLM Toer by winning the stage which also included La Redoute.
"You can't really compare the two races though," Boom told Cyclingnews. "This is a race where there are much stronger riders at the start than in Ster ZLM Toer. The course is more or less comparable if you look at all the twisting and turning but if my legs are good I can stay at the front there. Two and half times La Redoute shouldn't be a problem."
After the Eneco Tour, Boom will focus on the one-day races like Cyclassics Hamburg and GP Ouest France-Plouay.
"Hamburg is a sprinter's race," he explained. "I really want to do well in GP Plouay. Then I will hopefully do the World Championships team time trial with Belkin but that also depends on when our second child is due."
Boom cancelled his participation for the World Championships road race because of the imminent birth of his second daughter.
"You don't get to experience the birth of a child very often. Our national coach Johan Lammerts knew that the child was due around the World Championships and understood my decision. But I also think the course in Florence is a bit too hard for me," Boom concluded.