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An interview with Dirk De Mol
US Postal directeur sportif
By Tim Maloney, European editor
Cyclingnews grabbed a few moments with USPS director sportif Dirk De Mol on the eve of Milano-San Remo to talk about the teams new classics focus for 2002, George Hincapie and up and comer Tom Boonen.
Cyclingnews: How's life these days?
Dirk De Mol: It's starting to be a little nervous, because the Classics are coming and it's always a goal for us to do well in the classics. With George Hincapie, we have a rider who can do well there, who can win big classics and World Cups. Up until now, the races have been small but you can feel it building day by day.
CN: That's a different strategy than in the past for USPS; a separate classics focus.
DD: Yes it is...I mean George showed last year that he is really ready to win his first World Cup; its never easy but we are more than confident in George after last year. In some classics we'll have Lance helping out George and in some others, we'll have Lance.
CN: We see that Tour of Flanders is on Lance's program this year.
DD: He did this race just once as a young rider on Motorola and actually, he told us months ago that he (Lance) wanted to do some classics and he said that the Ronde van Vlaanderen is one he always likes. Plus I am happy that he is here (at Milano-San Remo) because when Lance is in the team, even if he is not in top shape, the other riders will ride at a higher level.
CN: With all your classics experience, what will your role be for USPS?
DD: Well I was a professional rider for 14 years and I was not a climber so I specialized in the races in the north - I have a lot of experience and can help the performance of the team there.
CN: You are starting your third year with USPS and before that you were managing a top amateur team in Kortrijk, Belgium?
DD: Yes, that true. I finished my pro career in '95 and after that I spent 4 years worked with the Kortrijk Groeningespurters coaching espoirs and junior riders.
CN: This year you have brought one of the top riders from the Kortrijk club, Tom Boonen, to USPS as a neo-pro.
DD: He came to Kortrijk when he was 16 and now he's 21; I saw right away that he had some talent. He will be a good rider for one day races; semi-classics and classics. Boonen is too young to make results in the big classics; you never know, but I'm confident that in a couple of years he can be top rider for us in the classics.
His specialty is the short climbs in these races; he loves racing on the cobbles and in his three years of espoirs, he did the (espoirs) Tour of Flanders and Paris-Roubaix so he already has a lot of experience which is always an advantage in these kind of races. Last year as an espoir, he won 10 races, he was Belgian champion and he was ready to go up to the pros and I wanted him to come to USPS.
CN: How is Boonen riding so far?
DD: In the first races he did, Het Volk and Kuurne-Brussels-Kuurne, he show he had good qualities; 6th place in Classic Haribo and 7th in K-B-K - but what I remember from his first races so far was that he passed first over the Oude Kwaremont and the Muur van Geraardsbergen in Het Volk and with all the big riders in good shape that were there,
Boonen showed he has qualities...but he still has a lot to learn and Boonen will have his role too in supporting George, who is our leader for the classics.