Lars Boom’s long-term goal has been to win the UCI Cyclocross World Championship in his home country in 2009. Last year’s victory was an early surprise, but this year he’s leaving nothing to chance. Rene van Hattum provided this unique update on the World Champion’s preparation.

Lars Boom and Adri van der Poel, by Henk Theuns

Lars Boom and Adri van der Poel, by Henk Theuns

Lars Boom in Hoogerheide

by Rene van Hattum, photo by Henk Theuns

Lars Boom is 192 centimetres of Dutch pride with his blond hair and strong body. The rainbow jersey of the Cyclo-Cross World Championships in Treviso does not cover a slender climber’s chest, but clings to a muscular torso. The cycling shorts tightly cling to his thighs the size of beeches. Lars Boom, 22 years old, is the Dutch world champion embodied, with a mission: becoming cyclo-cross world champion on 1 February 2009 in his own country, in Hoogerheide in Brabant.

When he is testing a nasty, steep climb from the World Championships track, it looks as if he is cycling through a meadow on a sunny summer’s day. Pure power varnished in suppleness. That is the climb that he can use to give the pack a real beating. Grass and weeds seem to bend aside for the world’s best cyclo-cross rider. On top of the hill, he looks like a predator that has just spotted a prey. It’s his track.

The world title last winter in the Italian Treviso came sooner than expected. Hoogerheide was the goal since the World Champions were awarded to the Brabant municipality in 2006. The municipality is home to successful Dutch riders: former tour winner Jan Jansen still lives there and runs his bicycle factory there. Former world champions Hennie Kuiper, Harm Ottenbros, Gerrie Knetemann and Adrie van der Poel live there or used to live there. Hoogerheide is sacred cycling ground, where riders are still heroes, provided that they keep both feet firmly in the Brabant clay. Arrogant champions are not appreciated there, hardworking riders are. That is the ethos of the catholic Brabant. Becoming cyclo-cross world champion there is like triumphing on Mount Olympus.

Thanks to the title of Treviso, Boom thinks that in spite of the expectations of undoubtedly thousands of fellow countrymen who will be watching along the track, he will be able to compete without pressure in Hoogerheide. “Last year I said that I wanted to become world champion in Hoogerheide and I have already reached that goal. I think that this time it will be easier for me to prepare for it mentally, not easy but certainly easier. I know that I can handle myself there, so there is certainly not more pressure.”

It is a fresh morning with blue skies when Lars Boom explores the track in the Brabant quayside landscape. Lush green sloping landscape at his feet. If it’s this sunny during the World Championships, then that’s fine. If it’s a big muddy mess, then that’s okay too. Early this year, he won the Grote Prijs Adrie van der Poel there in foul weather. The crush barriers were almost blown across the track and it was pouring with rain. “Nice weather is fine, but I don’t mind if the weather is very bad either. There is really only one thing that counts: you have to be at your best that day.”

Every bend and treacherous climb of the World Championships lap of about three kilometres is already in his head. “The track is pretty selective. A lot of differences in height and changes and quite some running parts. It is a great track for me anyhow, because it is good for breaking away from other riders. It does not really contain any very long parts, which means that you cannot always see your opponent, and that’s good.” Early this year in Hoogerheide he also managed to break away, rounds before the end, from the Belgian top riders Vervecken and Wellens with power and suppleness during a climb to the finish, and stayed away.

The night before the exploration he came from Spain after a stage race. Road races are also appealing to the cyclo-cross champion. The invitation to a track inspection was accepted eagerly, in spite of only having had a few hours of sleep. He would also like to be informed when the tall grass will be cut. Since Lars Boom also prefers to drive his car fast, it only takes him half an hour by car from his residence in Vlijmen. He does not wish to leave anything to chance at his track. Knowledge of the condition of the bare ground might just do it.

The summer was mainly spent on the road. The national time trial championships, the national championships on the road and a height training camp, all laying the foundation of what should be the best cyclo-cross season in his still short career. He will plan the preparatory phase for the World Championships as carefully as he did last year, when he dosed his strength and gave a miss on a few races. The world cup race in Milan will be the last test before Hoogerheide.

Rest is also an essential part of the preparation. “Especially in the weeks leading up to the race. Resting well, taking care of yourself and training well is the most important thing at that time.” Just like last year, late November/early December Boom will go to Lanzarote for two weeks of training. “Something else on your mind, nice weather and good training.”

The young world champion is not someone who has trouble taking a moment’s rest. “I enjoy lying on the sofa and watching a movie. I don’t have any problem with that. I am a quiet person and don’t have any trouble taking a moment’s rest and being at home.”

The fact that at his young age he will be competing for a second world title is not something that is on his mind. “I never think about that. Cyclo-cross is going well now and if I can last for ten more years, then that’s fine. As long as you enjoy what you do. Life is great like this, isn’t it?”