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When Lars Boom stepped into road cycling’s WorldTour in 2009, he gave up racing cyclocross, the sport that crowned him world champion the previous year. Boom, who now rides for Roompot-Charles, told VeloNews he regrets the decision to step away from cyclocross. In fact, Boom believes that cycling’s new crossover stars Mathieu van der Poel (Corendon-Circus) and Wout van Aert (Jumbo-Visma) should continue to race on knobby tires as long as they can.
“I regret that I didn’t keep doing cyclocross because I think it brought me a lot of victories on the road, a lot of time trial victories also,” Boom told VeloNews ahead of Amstel Gold Race, where his fellow Dutchman van der Poel is a favorite.
“We made the choice not to do cyclocross, but I think I would be a better rider now if I did more cyclocross races. Also, do a full road season but still in the winter do a little bit more [cyclocross].”
Boom said cyclocross racing made him a more explosive rider on the road. He also said the off-road racing format helped him stay motivated and stave off the burnout that comes from a long road campaign.
Boom’s perspective comes as van der Poel and van Aert have become the darlings of the cobbled classics season. Van der Poel won three one-day races this spring, including the WorldTour race Dwars Door Vlaanderen, and the recent Brabantse Pijl race in Belgium. Van Aert also turned heads, finishing third at Strade Bianche and second at E3 Harelbeke. To a point, the current and former ‘cross champs are following Boom’s footsteps.
In 2009, Boom was promoted from Rabobank’s Continental team to its Pro Tour outfit. The year prior he made waves by winning the Dutch national time trial and road race championships. Van der Poel is the current Dutch national champion.
“When I started doing the classics, you still had guys like Boonen and Cancellara,” Boom said. “That’s quite difficult. I didn’t have much pressure in Flanders as well. Of course, you have big pressure if you do a cyclocross World Cup but that’s normal if you’re a big guy in cyclocross.”
From 2009 onward, he raced very few major cyclocross events. Although he wishes he had stayed more in the ‘cross scene, Boom collected a few signature road victories, including the prologue at Paris-Nice 2010 and stage 5 of the 2014 Tour de France across the wet cobblestones of Paris-Roubaix.
“I think for me it was at the right moment [to switch to road], and I think also for van der Poel it was the right moment to make a change, to do more road racing,” Boom said. “As a cyclocross racer, you have benefits to race more on the road because you’re really explosive.”
Apart from the obvious physiological benefits that van der Poel has showcased with sprint victories in Dwars door Vlaanderen and Brabantse Pijl, Boom says that blending in cyclocross or even mountain bike races help prevent burnout or boredom.
“I hope those guys still do cyclocross because it’s good for them, and also for Mathieu he does mountain biking, so he’s doing a bigger combo than only the two,” he added. “But you need to keep your fun-factor high, and if you keep that high then it’s good I think.”