The Dutch team sprinters, who want to extend their title on Wednesday on the opening day of the European Championships in Apeldoorn, have been very dominant for two years. On their way to Olympic gold in Tokyo, they are currently each other's biggest competitor, because there are only a limited number of tickets available.
Harrie Lavreysen knows the calculation all too well. With himself, Roy van den Berg, Jeffrey Hoogland, Matthijs Büchli and Nils van 't Hoenderdaal, there are five men who have become world champions in the team sprint in recent years, while only three can go to Tokyo next year.
"It's bizarre, a rock situation," says 22-year-old Lavreysen in conversation with NUsport. "Of course, in the first instance, we all prefer to go to the Games ourselves, but we also like each other. That's why it's terrible that two boys have to stay home."
It is the luxury problem of the Sports Team of the Year 2018, which became world and European champion last year and extended its world title early this year by being nearly a second faster than France in the final.
"There is such a large internal competition in our team that every training is almost a competition," smiles Lavreysen, the reigning world champion in the individual sprint. "If you're not the best with us, you won't even get involved in the competitions. You'll be humble."
Roy van den Berg, Harrie Lavreysen and Jeffrey Hoogland rode the World Cup final earlier this year on the team sprint. (Photo: Pro Shots)
Lavreysen seems pretty sure of place
Lavreysen seems the most certain of his place, because he is currently the only Dutchman in the team sprint who focuses on the place of second driver. Hoogland and Büchli are final drivers, while Van den Berg and Van 't Hoenderdaal act as starters.
Van 't Hoenderdaal lost his place for this year's World Cup to Van den Berg and is now also not selected for the European Championship in Apeldoorn. For the time being the battle for an Olympic ticket seems to focus on Highland (last year's European sprint champion) and Büchli (the winner of Olympic silver at the keirin in 2016), but Lavreysen is certainly not rich.
"At the moment there is no one attacking my position," said De Brabander. "I hope it stays that way, but it can certainly change. I shouldn't be thinking about it too easily. Two weeks ago we had a test day and then I wanted to set a time as quickly as possible, so that the other boys don't think they can get my place. "
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"Every training is all about playing"
It is not yet certain what the selection procedure for Tokyo will look like next year. National coach Hugo Haak dropped out three years ago just before the Rio Games for the team sprint selection in a way that did not suit him at all. Now that the 27-year-old former rider is plotting the lines himself, he wants to be sure that the procedure is transparent and worked out down to the smallest details.
"I often ask Hugo if he already knows what the qualification requirements will be," said Lavreysen. "I want to know exactly what I have to do to get to those Games. Because I notice that since the World Cup this year, almost every training has been around Tokyo."
Haak realizes that the approaching Games can ensure that the internal battle in his team gets harder and harder. "That is why we are already taking precautions," says the national coach.
"We do a lot together as a group and I work every day to monitor the norms and values within the group and to address the riders when needed. We ensure a competitive, but also a very nice atmosphere, so that the boys help each other more instead of working against each other. That balance must always remain. "
The European Championship track cycling starts on Wednesday at 2.30 pm with the qualifications for the team sprint (women and men). The finals of the part are the final part of the evening program (7 p.m. to 9 p.m.).
Harrie Lavreysen and Jeffrey Hoogland are riding a big tournament at the European Championship for the first time on a brand new bicycle, which was developed by a sponsor for 500,000 euros in the direction of the Tokyo Games. It must be the fastest track bike that currently exists. " It feels very nice and it seems to be going really fast, but I still want to feel the difference with the old bike during a race," says Lavreysen.