Lars Boom will set the wheels of his 2016/17 cyclo-cross season in motion this weekend, but rather than joining the leading lights of the discipline in Belgium, he’ll be flying under the radar 1,000 miles away in the Basque country.
Speaking with Belgian newspaper Het Nieuwsblad, Boom, who was cyclo-cross world champion back in 2008 before switching to the road, revealed his plans for a low-key start followed by a full-on tilt against the biggest riders at the biggest races.
While the full-time riders already have several top-level races under their belts, the Dutchman has been enjoying his post-road season break, but is back racing today in Asteasu, on Saturday in Elorrio, and on Sunday in Igorre.
"I want to resume far away from all the attention,” said Boom. “Only during the Christmas period and at the World Championships will I measure myself against the top riders. At the moment I'm not ready to measure myself against them.
"I'm here because I enjoy riding in this region, because there are three races in a short period of time, and I can connect easily with the first team training camp on Monday."
Monday will see Boom link up with his new road team, Lotto NL-Jumbo, in south east Spain. It is, in fact, his old team, and he rejoins the Dutch set-up where he came through as a youngster and spent seven years as a pro before riding for Astana in 2015 and 2016.
Boom noted that when he dipped back into cyclo-cross last winter, it had noticeable benefits for his performances on the road in the spring. This year the 30-year-old hopes to reap the same rewards but the mud and sand won’t be a mere training tool.
"I will not start races for the fun of it,” he said. “I'm not going to announce that I will win against Mathieu [van der Poel] and Wout [Aert], but I'm not going to ride as an extra. I hope to fight against those two to become stronger myself. I will not be satisfied with just a place in the top ten. I want to play a major role, including at the World Championships."
Boom will return to cyclo-cross’ heartlands over Christmas to race the Boxing Day World Cup event at Heusden-Zolder – the same location as last year’s World Championships. This year, he is hoping to improve on his 14th place when the big event rolls around in Luxembourg in late January.
"I hope to get better this season for that day. Last year I was suffering with a back injury – I don’t have that problem now. I also have to prepare better and do more specific work. I would like to play a role at the Worlds – although the coach has to pick me first. The course this year suits me better than Zolder."