The newly-merged Roompot-Charles team was presented to the media on Thursday, with new arrival Lars Boom and notable absentee Wout Van Aert the principal topics of discussion. The 2019 Roompot-Charles roster is a merger of the Dutch Roompot squad and Belgian outfit Veranda’s Willems-Crelan.
Van Aert was under contract with Sniper Cycling, the holding company behind Veranda’s Willems-Crelan, for the 2019 season, but he unilaterally terminated that deal in September while the squad was negotiating its merger with Roompot. He has been racing as an independent rider on the cyclo-cross circuit since.
Earlier this month, the UCI appeared to give Van Aert the green light to sign for a new team for 2019, though Sniper Cycling is still pursuing the matter through the Belgian legal system. Van Aert already has a contract with Team Jumbo for 2020 and is now waiting on permission to sign with the Dutch WorldTour squad with immediate effect.
“We do not want what is happening around Wout to affect the team,” Nuyens said, according to Het Nieuwsblad. “A team is more than one person, and the fact that both Roompot and Charles stayed behind this project [without Van Aert – ed.] makes this so beautiful.
“It’s logical that it is different without Van Aert, but we have a nice team that can put its stamp on the races. You can keep looking back, but we want to move forward.”
Nuyens’ Sniper Cycling outfit has been absorbed by the Oranje Cycling holding company behind the original Roompot team. Michael Zijlaard is the general manager of the revamped and merged squad. The 2019 roster features six riders apiece from the 2018 Roompot and Veranda’s Willems squads, as well as five new signings, including Lars Boom and Boy van Poppel.
Roompot directeur sportif Michael Boogerd admitted that Van Aert’s absence would be felt in the Classics. The cyclo-cross world champion impressed this Spring, placing third at Strade Bianche, 9th at the Tour of Flanders and impressing at Paris-Roubaix. He also placed third at the European Championships in August.
“If you look at his performances in the Strade Bianche, Omloop and the Tour of Flanders, it would have been great to work with such talent. I like to start with a leader, who can do his thing until well into the final,” Boogerd told Sporza. "But Wout doesn’t want to come, and we should not dwell too long on that.”
Roompot-Charles’ Classics challenge will instead be led by Lars Boom, who placed 4th at Paris-Roubaix in 2015 but has never quite fulfilled his potential on the cobbles, a stage win on the pavé at the 2014 Tour de France notwithstanding. The 33-year-old missed the cobbled Classics in 2018 after undergoing surgery to treat cardiac arrhythmia in January.
“It would be ridiculous if you called him old already,” Boogerd said. “He has always had a lot of fire and that’s not gone after that heart operation. His flame has never been extinguished.”
Boom, for his part, said that he was looking forward to taking on the mantle of team leader on the Pro Continental squad.
"I have a lot of ambition to put Roompot-Charles on the map,” Boom told Sporza. “I hope for a wildcard for Paris-Roubaix, but we’ll have to show ourselves from Omloop onwards. If I get good results, comparable to my period at Astana, then I will be satisfied with my Spring."
Boom’s first outings in Roompot orange will come on the cyclo-cross circuit in January, when he plans to ride “four or five races.” He was cyclo-cross world champion in 2008, before stepping up to WorldTour level on the road with Rabobank the following year. Despite that pedigree, Boom insisted that he had no aspirations for his short cyclo-cross campaign beyond preparing for the road season to follow. “It’s only to gain fitness. The road remains the priority.”