Cycling: Lars van der Haar (Giant-Shimano) surprised everyone last winter. He confidently secured the overall World Cup. What many people don't know is that the young Dutchman takes part in a demanding program on the road every year to prepare for it. We sat down with him briefly as part of the Tour d'Azerbaijan.
Hello Lars, how are you?
Good. Thank You!
You're basically preparing for the mud in Belgium in the dust of Azerbaijan. How important are tours like this to you, what significance does your road program have for you?
(Laughs) My street program is really, really important to me. And tours like this are good, both in terms of organization, as well as the stages and profile. It just gives you strength and endurance, but it also gets you used to higher speeds. This is important to be in a good mood in winter. You can also see a lot of cyclocrossers who are preparing for their season on the MTB, but in winter they usually lack some speed. Others now combine their MTB with a solid road program. That might be a good solution too. Personally, however, I don't really like mountain biking. That's another reason why I drive on the road in the summer.
The reigning world champion Zdenek Stybar is now mainly on the road. Is that also an option for you in the future? Are you interested in races like Paris-Roubaix or the Belgian classics?
One should never say never. But to be honest, I don't like street racing that much that I want to put my full focus on it. Maybe that will be different in ten years. But now cyclocross is high on the priority list.
What exactly do you dislike about street racing?
The racing process is simply different than in cyclocross. It's often boring. You're in the field all the time, with the first hour being tough and the last hour. It's different in cyclocross, where the races are more satisfying for me. Also, I feel like a winner. I want to compete for victory every week. It's not as good on the road as it is off-road.
This winter you have to defend the overall World Cup. Your summer program is used to build up the form for this. When does the concrete preparation on your cyclocrosser begin?
The pressure will of course be greater this winter than last year. More drivers will look to me. Nevertheless, I obviously want to get stronger and be on the podium more often. For this reason, I will still complete a solid road program until the end of June. Then I take a short break. After that, I'll have two more stage races before starting training for the cyclocross season around August 20th.
And what does your specific program look like then? Do you put your racing bike in the corner and only ride the cyclocross bike?
No. I do most of the training on the road. I only train on the cyclocross bike once a week – mostly on Wednesdays. Then the technology program is on the agenda. I do that all winter long. I still use my road bike for road training, mainly because of the intervals and getting used to the speed.
Let's talk about your way of racing. Last winter you surprised many by often being behind at the beginning but ending up on the podium. You can't plan that, of course, but how do you manage to keep calm in such situations during the race?
Well, on the one hand you have a mental advantage if you can fight your way back up in the race, past the drivers who made a better impression before. But you also have to know how to move forward again. I usually start fast too. But sometimes you just don't feel so good and you have to get into the race first. i know what i can do That's why I usually manage to stay calm in such moments. You just have to believe in yourself.
Speaking of believing in yourself. What goals do you have for the coming winter?
Of course it's difficult to win the overall World Cup every year. My goal is to defend my title, but of course you also need a bit of luck. I also want to do some good Superprestige races. But my big goal is the World Championships in Tabor. I really want to fight for victory there.
One last question: How do you see the globalization of cyclocross? There were considerations to organize a World Cup in the USA.
I think it's difficult to take that step. Although I will start the season in Las Vegas again this year, it is a different matter with regard to the World Cup, both logistically and financially. In addition to the drivers, a lot of material always has to be transported. And then you have to ask yourself, is it worth it for a one-hour race? Maybe if you combine several races overseas. I'm ready for it, but I don't really think it's a good idea.
Thanks for the interview and good luck for the season!