The brief return of Lars Boom (Rabobank) to the discipline of cyclo-cross will be long remembered. According to Boom, his participation in a couple of cyclo-cross races is only meant as build-up to his 2011 road season. During the sixth round of the UCI's World Cup in Zolder, Belgium, the Dutch champion impressed by beating current World Cup leader Niels Albert (Telenet-Fidea) and the rest of the cyclo-cross specialists.
The 24-year-old Dutch champion offered himself a great birthday present - he turns 25 on December 30 - by grabbing the win in the only World Cup round in which he is taking part this season.
"It's always great to win, but for me this is the most ideal way to prepare for the road season. Don't think that I have no respect for the real cyclo-cross riders. Of course, I'm starting these races with a little bit of ambition because I don't want to come here and finish 20th," Boom said.
Boom aims to do well in the Spring Classics and last year, he found out that he wasn't well prepared for those hard races. "I was just clocking long hours in Spain and there was not enough intensity. I already have better form than last year. It also feels better because it's more fun. I hope to continue training well and continue training with the team in February," Boom said.
During the World Cup race in Zolder, his Belgian rival Albert explained that he lacked power relative to his peer Boom on the pavement sections. "He went extremely fast when the race started. I thought he would ride straight into the forest at the first corner," Albert said.
Boom suggested to Albert that there's a solution for that problem. "You should ride a Grand Tour, that makes a difference," Boom said. In 2009, Boom rode his first ever Grand Tour for the Rabobank team, and he debuted with a win during stage 15 of the Vuelta a España. In 2010, he took part in the Tour de France.
For the cyclo-cross specialists, the return from former cyclo-cross world champion Boom results in less chances at a win. Wellens made a clear statement after his third place in Zolder. "It's been a long time since I finished on the podium. Winning will be even more difficult. I'll probably have to wait until Lars [Boom] focuses back on the road," Wellens said.
Runner-up in Zolder, Albert said it wasn't a surprise that Boom came back to cyclo-cross to win races. "I never thought he would come back only to hang around. He's been a world champion in every discipline, and he appears fresh while we are halfway our season," Albert said.
Some cyclo-cross riders showed up in Zolder and were frightened off by the challenging course. Former world champion Hanka Kupfernagel crashed during training and didn't take the start. Former US-champion Ryan Trebon (Kona) figured that he had more to lose than to win and opted to skip the World Cup round too because it was too dangerous.
For a road cyclist like Boom, a crash on a frozen subsoil could disturb his build-up towards the Spring Classics. "This morning when I arrived, I was worried about the snow because they hadn't removed anything. I was scared because I've got a lot to lose with they eye on the road season. I didn't want to risk my career. Especially the steep drops were dangerous. When riding the course, I felt good on my bike and in the end it couldn't spoil the fun for me," Boom said.