Lead-out workshop by Boy van Poppel: "Gerben Thijssen would really scold me in the finals, that's actually pretty great" Cycling

Lead-out workshop by Boy van Poppel: "Gerben Thijssen would really scold me in the finals, that's actually pretty great"

Lead-out workshop by Boy van Poppel: "Gerben Thijssen would really scold me in the finals, that's actually pretty great"

If there is one family name that is intertwined with the Dutch sprinting landscape, it is the name Van Poppel. Father Jean-Paul won nine stages in the Tour de France, and now sons Danny and Boy are charting the sprint lines for WorldTour teams BORA-hansgrohe and Intermarché-Wanty. In an extensive conversation with IDLProCycling.com, Boy talked about his role as a lead-out rider.

Now 36, Van Poppel is embarking on his fourteenth full-time professional season, and there has been a change on the horizon. "Next year, I will be the lead-out for Arne Marit instead of Gerben Thijssen," said the Dutchman. "We discussed it quite a bit. Initially, Gerben wasn't really in favor of it, and neither was I. Now I will be the lead-out for Arne Marit. We had many discussions with the team leaders, and in the end, it came down to the fact that I am needed to turn Arne into a top sprinter. The way Aike put that, I found it quite an honor," said the ever humble rider.

"Of course, you also want to grow alongside Gerben, but on the other hand... I've already ridden all those races like the Tour, and maybe there's more for me to achieve with Arne. I've already seen that there's a lot of potential in that young man, but there are still some areas we can work on. Hopefully, we can turn it into as beautiful a project as with Arne, because you can see it in that case too: quality takes time. And that naturally comes with ups and downs," the experienced Van Poppel knows all too well.

Thijssen would really scold lead-out Van Poppel: "I think that's pretty great"

"I think we need to set a goal with Arne to build a strong foundation so that he can adapt to all scenarios in a sprint. This way, he gains more experience and really understands what's going to happen. That's the first goal, and then we can start looking at victories," Van Poppel suggests. Marit came close in the past Giro, though. "But it's more important to be competitive all around before going for the win. That's what happened with Gerben now too. You first need to win the smaller races, and then you can move on to the bigger ones. Every sprint is different, and you learn something from each one."

Lead-out workshop by Boy van Poppel: "Gerben Thijssen would really scold me in the finals, that's actually pretty great"

Thijssen aims to reap benefits in the Giro next season, with Adrien Petit as the lead-out instead of Poppel. "But it's not that I won't be working with Gerben at all. We'll still ride six or seven races together this year. Gerben had the privilege of working with me because I organized everything for him. That was necessary to turn him into a top sprinter, but now the next step is for him to do those things himself. He needs to try to do it on his own because there will come a time when I'm no longer there. I've told him that he also needs to trust Adrien Petit, because otherwise, you're already lost before the race begins."

The relationship between Van Poppel and Thijssen was quite a special one. "With Gerben, I was there to keep him calm. In the finals, he could really scold me, but precisely at those moments, I knew: he's in good form when he does that. I think that's pretty great. With Gerben, things worked in such a way that I usually told him: you just need to follow my wheel, I'll handle the rest, and then you can sprint. This way, I take away all the worries because there's a lot of pressure on those guys, of course. The responsibility then lies with me."

Van Poppel with Marit against the big boys in UAE Tour

And that's how it will have to go with Marit as well next season. "I try to coach those guys in front of me well, so that we can really ride as a team. Of course, we always aim for a lead-out until a few hundred meters from the finish. The farther I can go, the more I can do for the sprinter in the final kilometer. But sometimes, of course, I have to do my job earlier," he knows all too well after all those years of experience.

Lead-out workshop by Boy van Poppel: "Gerben Thijssen would really scold me in the finals, that's actually pretty great"

So where will we see Boy's new sprint train in action? "Valencia, Murcia/Almeria and then in the UAE Tour, where we have to compete against the big teams. I don't expect too much from that, but it's good to test that sprint train a few times. I think that's the goal. After that, we go to the Belgian races: Criquelion, Monseré, Nokere... The Thijssen route. And then the Vuelta at the end of this year."

Other lead-outs like brother Danny and Mike Teunissen have mentioned that it is not getting any quieter in sprints. On the contrary, but how does the now 36-year-old Van Poppel see things? "You get used to it," he laughs. "There is a difference between, say, a UAE Tour and a smaller Belgian race because in the United Arab Emirates, things are much more organized. There are clear sprint trains, and there's also a bit more respect, whereas at a lower level, races are sometimes a matter of life and death. Occasionally, it gets out of hand, but I understand it as well: I've been young too, and all those guys want to become pros. Maybe that particular race is their chance to turn pro," Van Poppel sums it up.

In the Van Poppel family's sprint app, there isn't too much talk about sprinting

Boy's season has yet to begin, but in recent weeks, we've already seen the Van Poppel name on screen quite a bit: brother Danny achieved three victories in his first race of the year with Sam Welsford as the new BORA-hansgrohe sprinter. "When I woke up in the morning, the first thing I checked was what had happened there. The way Danny does it... That's textbook execution. But it also depends on who's in front of him. Experienced riders make it easier to do those things than the young guys," he refers to positioner Ryan Mullen at BORA-hansgrohe.

Lead-out workshop by Boy van Poppel: "Gerben Thijssen would really scold me in the finals, that's actually pretty great"

He also kept in touch with his brother from the other side of the world. "For him, it's just super good. There's much less pressure on him, and you can see that he's in his element. He has a very good positioner in Mullen, which allows him to use his strength in the final kilometer," Van Poppel analyzes. "That's why his sprinter is launched really well, and not many can compete with that. I don't think those will be the last victories this year," Boy chuckles, who also wants to learn from this as he approaches the start of his own season.

"I do watch what he does well and what he doesn't," he says. "I can't fault him much, but in one stage of the Tour Down Under, Sam Welsford surpassed him very quickly. Danny was actually in the lead for only a few seconds at that point," Boy points out, clearly in analysis mode. "Then we talk about it later: maybe that's possible now, but against someone like Gerben, there's a better chance he can hold on. We do discuss such things, but that's always been the case. Actually, we try to talk as little as possible about cycling. We're already so involved with it, and it already takes up such a big part of our season. Occasionally, it comes up in the group chat we have with Danny and my father, but that's about it."

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