One face you didn’t expect to see at Redlands this year was that of Jeroen Blijlevens. But there he was, taking part in the 17th edition of the Redlands Bicycle Classic. The Dutch sprinter was in California, because of a “slight delay” to the start of his 2001 season.
Though he has an impressive résumé that includes five stage wins at the Vuelta España, two stage wins at the Giro d’Italia and four at the Tour de France, Blijlevens has most recently gained attention for a fight on the last day of the 2000 Tour.
After finishing the final stage in Paris, Blijlevens charged at American Bobby Julich and the two had to be pulled apart. Tour officials later ruled that Blijlevens was responsible for the fight and ejected him from the race, giving him no credit for finishing the 23-day tour. He was later given a 30-day suspension that only recently expired.
The fight marked the low point of an already bad year. Blijlevens did not renew his contract with the Italian Polti squad. He later signed a deal with the Belgian Lotto-Adecco team.
We had a chance to speak with Blijlevens on March 14, before the start of the Highlands Road Race, stage 2 of the Redlands Bicycle Classic.
VeloNews What are doing racing in the U.S.? Wouldn’t you usually be…
Jeroen Blijlevens I couldn’t race in February because of small incident in July. I wanted to do Paris-Nice, but missing February makes it too hard, so I thought I would begin my preparation here.
VN You were suspended?
JB Yes, suspended for all of February because of the fight at the end of the Tour de France. So that ended on March first, I rode two days in Spain and then I came to America.
VN So about that small incident…
JB Oh, you know, these things happen in sport. It had more to do with the moment. You have to be intense to compete and sometimes that causes a problem, too. It’s part of sport.
VN Have you guys talked? Have you seen Bobby Julich since then?
JB No, no, no. For me it’s finished.
VN True, but it was a notable part of what was a pretty frustrating year for you. What happened last year? And I mean other than the last day of the Tour.
JB I trained to too much in the hills. I lost a lot of weight. The mountains are okay, but not for results. I can survive the mountains but I am not going to win there. I spent too much time trying to improve in the mountains. This year, I spend more time preparing for the sprints. More speed training. More power training. I want to do what I am good at.
VN So you have a new team. What kind of contract do you have?
JB It was a bad year last year, so I could only get a one-year contract. This gives me a chance to try to prove myself again. For me it’s a good opportunity and I have plenty of motivation.
I am readying for the Tour and we are going to do the Giro and the other guys on the team are getting ready for the classics.
VN Are you doing any of the classics yourself?
JB Oh small ones. Not Paris-Roubaix, for example, but Ghent-Wevelgem and small ones.
VN And the Giro, the Tour – if Lotto is selected – and anything else?
JB We won’t be doing the Vuelta. It’s not possible to do three big tours in a year.
VN Well, good luck to you today.
JBYeah, I need it. I could use a win.