By Andrew Hood
Bobby Julich enjoyed a very successful comeback season in 2004, winning a stage in the Tour of the Basque Country, finishing third overall at Paris-Nice and taking home the bronze medal at the Olympic time trial.
For Julich, a return to the elite levels of racing was especially sweet. Since his 1998 Tour de France podium ride, the popular Colorado rider struggled to find the winning legs. In joining Team CSC and Bjarne Riis, Julich discovered the team he was always looking for.
With his feet firmly planted on the ground, the 33-year-old enters the 2005 campaign with high hopes of building upon the successes of last season.
The confidence is back, not the cockiness that maybe I had after 1998, but now I am confident that I am back to the highest level, Julich says.
VeloNews European correspondent Andrew Hood sat down with Julich for an expansive interview at the team’s training camp last month in Tuscany. Here’s what Julich had to say in the first of a two-part interview:
VeloNews: So tell us how you are feeling compared to this point last year?Bobby Julich: Surprisingly good. I’ve made a lot of progress according to the tests we’ve made. All winter I trained all alone in the Reno-Tahoe area, so you never really know what you can do until you get back. But even then I was surprised at the first tests we did. I was already way ahead of where I was last year. Everything we do is with the SRM, so I can compare it back to years from now. Also, when the sensations are good, and the results from SRM results, you’ve know you made some progress. I’ve been doing this so long, that it kind of goes hand in hand. The sensations are good when the watts are good. I’m excited to be back, suffer and have a successful season.
VN: Do you enter this season with a different attitude from where you were last year?BJ: I want to do exactly the same as last year. One of the mistakes I made after successful season in the past as that I’ve changed too many things. I don’t want to change anything. If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it. I’ve always said that. This year, it’s going to be very much the same attitude. I have an Olympic medal for the rest of my life, but I also enjoy what I am doing at this level and with this team, I want to help this team grow to an even higher level. We were almost the best team in the world rankings (second), which was impressive.
VN: What are your main objectives this season?BJ: Jens (Voigt) and I are doing many of the ProTour races, so we want to do like we did last year and come out of the blocks running, ready to be competitive in February and March. That’s a little different from Ivan and Carlos, who are doing the other races. They have a little more time. Besides those two, everyone else is just hungry to show what you have. That’s one of the mistakes I made earlier in my career was to put too much emphasis on one race. It’s good for Jens and I to be able to not have any major objectives, but to the competitive in all the races we do. For me, it’s Paris-Nice; for Jens, Criterium International. We just want to go and be competitive in all the races we do.
VN: That seems like it must be a more fun way to race, rather than having all the pressure on the Tour?BJ: For me, it’s more fun. When I’m good, I want to go good, I don’t want to sit there and think, oh, I have to save myself for July. I was racing very hard last year in the beginning of the year and was still good in July in the Tour and in August for the Olympics. Especially with Jens, who’s my best friend in cycling, it’s fun to do that and keeps up motivation. I’ve had a few guys pull us aside and say, ‘I love it when you and Jens are around because you guys are up, you’re motivated to race.’ That helps everyone, it really brings up the level. We wind up getting good results, just getting that success ball rolling. It’s a lot more enjoyable when you’re not too stressed about the outcome and you’re out having fun on your bike.
VN: You and Jens are good friends, then?BJ: Not a coincidence that we work well together. We room together, when Jens is at the same races. We have a good chemistry, we evaluate before the race to see what we can do, then after the race we talk about what happened, how could improve. It’s worked well.
VN: So you’ve been roomies since your days together at Credit Agricole?BJ: I was roomies with him in the Tour at Credit Agricole, so we’ve been pretty close. I didn’t have the morale then – when you have one up here and another down here, you never find common ground. When we’re both are at high level, you just feed off that. For us, we both love it. Some guys talk about what they saw on MTV, but Jens and I talk about racing, all the time. That’s infectious; we share that dedication and passion. We have the same schedule the whole year and last year Jens came out to Reno to train with me. This year he can’t come out and do that, he’s expecting their fourth child in May.
VN: What other close friends do you have in cycling?BJ: We had a lot of fun at Credit Agricole, Stuart, Thor, Magnus, Jens and I. It was amazing we didn’t click when we were on same team. David Millar, too, is a good friend. Kevin Livingston was very much the type that Jens is, just the guy I raced and trained with. Jens and I take it to a different level.
VN: Describe some of the things you do during this train camp.BJ: We work a lot with group riding, Russian style which is two lines or single-file, we work on different areas of power, explosive power with sprints, more endurance power with longer intervals as we as medium power more short but higher wattage. We hit the whole gauntlet in our exercises. Bjarne always has those surprises in the end, you never really know until you get to the end that the day is really over. Because Bjarne could always say, ‘OK, for next 10km, I want to see a race.’ When we get to a climb, he’ll say, ‘I want to see some action.’ Of course, if the guys are feeling good, you can score some points with him, but you don’t have to kill yourself if it’s not part of your program.
VN: What’s so special about this team?BJ: Look at our budget, half of Discovery and T-Mobile, but we have really good chemistry. After 11 seasons as a pro, what I see on this team this year is even better than what I saw last year. One thing is the depth and a lot of hungry guys coming to this team and expecting to be successful. That’s different than just going to a team and hoping to be successful. To be part of that they have to be ready to work. A lot of guys did their homework their year and they’re ready to impress.
VN: Riis was telling me that the Tour had more turmoil than most people realized. To get through that is that a reflection of the team’s strength?BJ: I guarantee it if I was with Credit Agricole or Telekom, I wouldn’t have been able to continue because we didn’t have the type of support system when you crashed. I went down twice before I broke my wrist. I went down in the team time trial and then crashed with 1km with the barriers in the same crash with Tyler. We both had the same war wounds. He looked like something out of The Matrix. I couldn’t even pedal. Ole and Robin (CSC’s therapists) worked a lot on me for three or four days. Right when I got good, I crashed again. I was always getting body worked on, cracked, that took a lot of fun out of it. It really felt like you were in trenches and you didn’t want to let them down. As long as if you didn’t have anything broke, you kept going. Then we lost Jakob and Bartoli, there was no question I had to stay. Ivan told us about Fassa Bortolo, when the entire team dropped out. We didn’t want that to happen. He wins the stage to La Mongie, then the next day we’ve almost lost three riders, Jakob, Bartoli and me in the gruppetto.
VN: It must have been a vindication for you to be at the front of a major mountain stage again on the day to La Mongie?BJ: Ivan and Carlos were making the race and I was back there just kinda surprised that guys like Ullrich, Mayo, Heras and Tyler were getting dropped. OK, just get to top, just stay where I’m at and save it for tomorrow, then that was when I crashed. I was near the front at a high mountain stage. That definitely felt good.
This concludes Part 1 of our conversation with Bobby Julich. Check back with VeloNews.com tomorrow when Julich talks about the ProTour, the Olympics and his new American teammates.