Lars Boom believes Rabobank will be a major force throughout the 2011 Classics season and is hopeful a new pre-season training programme that includes cyclo-cross will see him play a major role in the Northern European portion of the spring.
Rabobank were one of only a handful teams able to break Saxo Bank's stranglehold on the 2010 Classics season, with Oscar Freire's win at Milan-San Remo. The team signed Matti Breschel during the off-season to bolster its Classics roster and although the Dane's participation in the next spring’s Classics remains in doubt after recent knee surgery, Boom is confident the squad will have plenty of cards to play.
"I'm looking forward to working with him [Breschel]. He's a good rider and he's finished second at the worlds this year. We also have [Sebastian] Langeveld; he's a good rider also. We will have a strong team for the Classics," Boom told Cyclingnews on Saturday.
"Before the team presentation we did some team building activities for a number of days and there's a really good atmosphere. A lot of guys in the team are also really good friends with one another. I think that is important and the main reason we are going to be good next year."
Boom himself will again focus upon the cobbled Classics. Last season he finished fifth at E3 Prijs - Harelbeke and whilst the semi-classics will again be important goals, they remain stepping stones to his major objectives of the spring, the Tour of Flanders and Paris-Roubaix.
"I want to do well in that race [E3] and the weeks after of course -the big ones for me are Flanders and Roubaix," he said. "E3 and Het Nieuwsblad are also very important."
Cyclo-cross to be ready for the cobbles
In order to prepare for the Classics Boom has altered his pre-season and early season programme. The 24-year-old former cyclo-cross world champion has included a heavier-than-usual schedule of cyclo-cross races as preparation for the unique demands of the cobbled classics.
"Last year I only did two 'cross races and I'd spent the whole winter in Spain. This year my trainer and I think I'm going to be better if I do the winter in Holland with cyclo-cross and more intensive training aimed towards the Classics, than to do long-distance training on the road," he said.
Boom's victory at last week's Luxembourg Grand Prix cyclo-cross race is an indication that his condition is good, and he will continue his six-race 'cross programme at the Vlaamse Druivencross in Overijse, Belgum on Sunday. However he confirmed to Belgian media this week that he will not compete at the cyclo-cross world championships in Sankt Wendel, Germany in January.
"They [the Belgian media] want me to, but I'm not going to do the worlds. My goal is the road season and I'm doing cyclo-cross for the training and to prepare for the Classics," said Boom, who will end his cyclo-cross season with the defence of his Dutch championship in mid-January.
"I don't know whether I'm in good shape or not, I'm going to find out on Sunday because it's a reasonably big race. So it's difficult to say whether I'm in good form or not. I feel okay and I'm doing well so let's hope for the best."
In addition to his increased 'cross programme, Boom has also altered his early season programme. In 2011 he will head to the Tour of Qatar and the Tour of Oman for the first time, rather than last year's schedule of races in Portugal and Spain.
"We'll be going Qatar and Oman this year and I'll be doing both those races. Last year I was in Algarve, Almeria then Majorca, this year I'll head off to the Middle East and see what's going on there. I'm doing lots of intervals and motor-pacing now so I think it will be good for those races."
Following what he hopes will be a successful Classics campaign; Boom will head to the Tour of California. It will be the second time he tackles the American race and he has fond memories of last year's debut there.
"I think I'll be going again, I hope so also, I like it," he said. "For Rabobank it's an important race because the bank is big and growing in California. Last year Tom Leezer and I went out a week earlier than the team to do some clinics there for the bank. It was a lot of fun to meet people from the bank and meet locals.”
"It was also good for the race because I was over jet-lag by the time the race started. I'm planning and hoping to go a little bit earlier again this year, have some fun and train hard."