The legs might not be as strong as they once were, but there's no denying Leon Van Bon's passion for cycling still remains and despite an uncertain future, the 37-year-old is confident of racing next season.
For the last two years, Van Bon has raced for the Chinese outfit Trek - Marco Polo. Despite the title sponsor pulling out, Van Bon is confident that the team will still be racing in 2010. "We lost our main sponsor, but we had an okay year and have some strong riders. I think we'll be together for next year," he told Cyclingnews.
Van Bon is currently riding the European track circuit and recently competed in Revolution 26 at Manchester velodrome with Bradley Wiggins and Ben Swift. For Van Bon though, who has won at least one professional race every year since 1994, he's just glad to be able to race on the track after concentrating on the road scene for the majority of his successful professional career.
Van Bon turned professional in 1994 with Jan Raas's WordPerfect team after claiming a silver medal in the Barcelona Olympics. Before that he'd cut his teeth on the track as a junior, winning several national titles at the Under 17 and Under 19 levels. However Raas's strict management style meant that Van Bon had to give up his love of track racing. "At my hometown, there was a track, and I used to race on both the track and road. Every kid did it but Jan Raas told me I had to give it up. Some riders like Zabel were able to combine track and road but I wasn't. I'm pleased to be back though," he said with a grin, clearly still enjoying the thrill of racing in front of a packed house in Manchester.
With two year's experience of racing in Asia, Van Bon doesn't miss the road scene in Europe, and although he's had several offers to return and race in Belgium and Holland, he's happy to put that period in his life behind him. "I've done racing in Europe and I don't miss it. I had offers to come back but I said 'no thanks'. Okay, they weren't from ProTour teams, but I could have still raced in the semi-classics in Belgium."
But Van Bon, who also raced for Lotto and Rabobank, feels that his long career is down to his varied racing programme and that his shift to racing in Asia has helped prolong his passion. "In the last few years, I've tried to do races that were different from what I'd experienced in Europe, and I've tried to teach some of the young Asian riders about racing in a European style. I enjoy that and as long as I can do that and have a certain level of fitness, I'll stay in the sport as a rider."
As for retirement, it's not something that Van Bon is ready to consider, especially having announced earlier in his career that he'd retire by the age of 32. "When I feel I've done enough I'll stop, but right now I'm happy. I could stop in five months, but I could also stop in five years so I'll leave it open and see what happens. Directing a team would interest me. If some team wants me then I'd consider changing a bike for a car."
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