By Andrew Hood
In the firstpart of our conversation with Bobby Julich, the American looked backat what has turned out to be a wise decision to sign with Bjarne Riis’s CSC team in Denmark at the end of 2003. For Julich, 2004 can only be seen as remarkable, a comeback season in which he won a stage in the Tour of the Basque Country, finished third overall at Paris-Nice and took home the bronze medal at the Olympic time trial.“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 noted.In today’s installment, Julich talks about the ProTour, his Olympic experience and the prospect of working with his new American teammates David Zabriskie and Christian Vande Velde:
VN: Does the ProTour change anything for you?
BJ: It doesn’t really change that much for me. I never rodefor UCI points. The races I want to go, I want to be competitive in; thatwon’t change our motivation very much. I have a kind of a wait and see.Honestly, they’re the same races, maybe just a different point allotment.
VN: Are there any major changes in your race schedule?
BJ: Same as last year, I start with Marseille and Bessèges,Tour Med, Paris-Nice, Milan-San Remo, Criterium International, Pais Basque,then there’s the question mark if I do Tour de Georgia or the three Ardennesclassics — Fleche, Liege and Amstel — before taking my break. Then Ihave five weeks off racing. I’ll go home to the Reno-Tahoe area, then comeback around June 1 to be ready for Dauphiné so I won’t be so jet-lagged.I’d prefer to Tour de Suisse, but with that new ProTour team time trial,it conflicts with the Tour de Suisse, which kinda stinks. Bjarne wantsus to the have the Tour team in the Dauphiné to look at key stagesand be together in team time trial, then if we have to go back to see keyTour stages before race start, we will.
VN: Does anything changefor you at the Tour, with Basso and Sastre as team leaders?
BJ: Makes me wish I was doing the Giro, (Basso) is really keenon winning. I’m confident that he can do it. That doesn’t change much forme, because if we’re not there for Ivan, we’re there for Carlos. I justwant to make sure I don’t hit the deck as much as I did last year.
VN: What are you plans after the Tour?
BJ: I would really like to do the world’s this year, to go fullgas in good form for world’s. I think last year I threw away an opportunity.I got sick and I couldn’t do anything about it. I went back to do the GPSan Francisco on a composite team. We were doing it up the week and halfbefore I left, mom and friends made plans to go there. I had three weeksoff racing, I lived at altitude for two weeks, then I got really sick.I had the flu for three days, and an inner ear infection for 10 days andit ended my season. Plus I had cast on my arm, so obviously my body wastelling me, hey, time for a break. When I look back at the (Verona) course;that’s just a perfect course for me. It would have been hard to beat Mike(Rogers), but a medal there could have been possible. You gotta be happywith what you got.
VN: How was the recovery from the crash lastyear in the Tour?
BJ: The wrist is a little tight. I can’t bend it back as much.It affects me when I do pushups, but there’s no real pain. I didn’t dothe most intelligent thing after the crash, racing the Tour then the Olympics.I’m recovered from that, but everything happens for a reason, because Ibelieve it helped me get an Olympic medal because I was able to go to Athensnot completely cooked. I was so hindered by the wrist in the Tour thatI didn’t go as deep as perhaps I would have if I was helping Ivan and Carlosin the end and trying to defend a top 15 or top 10 in the GC myself. Itgave me the endurance to make the Olympics, and I was a little fresher.Guys like Ullrich and Kloeden were cooked.
VN: What impressed you most about the Olympics?
BJ: Tyler really impressed me with his focus on that race, howprepared he was in all facets, with the bikes, tires, special skin suit,everything, I was very impressed. He’s definitely a very professional rider… When I saw Tyler’s tires compared to mine, I was like, ‘Ohhhhhhhhhhh!’I went to the Olympics in Ivan Basso’s special time trial bike becausemy bike had broken the weekend before. We had to steal our equipment outof the truck when mechanics weren’t looking. We had to steal a disk wheel.We didn’t have a (team) truck at the Olympics. Tyler had two of the besttime trial bikes I’ve ever seen, with Zipp wheels, that special skin suitfrom Nike, special tires. He had tires flown in the night before the race.He determined he needed a special tire and they were all the way up inSwitzerland. Phonak flew someone down from Zurich into Athens, just todrop off the tires and went home. It gave him what he needed. I was prettyimpressed with how ready he was for that event. It takes a lot to get thatmuch equipment, that far away, that dialed; a lot of behind-the-scenesadministration and setup.
VN: Who was helping you?
BJ: I had no one from CSC. I had a road bike and a time trialbike and I took it all myself. USA Cycling didn’t have any equipment forus, so I showed up with Basso’s spare TT bike, a disc wheel with a hopin it, a pretty good front wheel. I had no idea about what tires I had.But I had my little tricks. I had my chain-rings and my Camelback. It’slike a pea-shooter against a bazooka. I had to take all it all up thereourselves. My spare bike was my road frame with a pair of clip-ons. I’mglad I didn’t have a mechanical.
VN: Did you have time to enjoy the Olympics or was it all business?
BJ: It was a really fun 10 days. It was a really great experience.I had always a hole in my resume because I never had gone to the Olympics.It was like I was a kid in candy store. George had been to like four Olympics,this was Tyler’s second. I got there and started trading the pins. I wantedto experience everything. They were like, ‘Dude, that’s not cool,’ butthen they got into it. George said he’d never even been to the Olympicvillage before because they were always in some remote places. Normally,Lance stays away from all that.
VN: So the Olympics were really the icing on the cake for youlast year?
BJ: It really was. I had very little pleasure in the Tour becauseof all the pain on and off the bike. That was definitely No. 1 icing onthe cake. To be solid in time trials all year was something to be proudof last year.
VN: You now have two new teammates with Zabriskie and Vande Velde,did Riis consult you about signing them?
BJ: First, I think it’s a sensible decision to have more Americanriders because CSC is an American company. Riis came up to me before thebike show and gave me three names. One was David and one was Christian.The first thing was total disbelief was that Postal Service wouldn’t signDavid Zabriskie. I was blown away and I had to ask (Riis), are you surethat he’s available? Absolutely, 100 percent this is the guy you want becauseby far he is the top American talent under the age of 25. I saw him race,he’s great time trialist, great worker. He is one of the future stars ofAmerican cycling. With Christian, that’s not a risk either. I said, Bjarne,here’s you next American challenge. No one questions Vande Velde’s ability.What he did to help Heras in the Vuelta was impressive. He’s been throwna few curveballs. He made his best decision of his life to come here. Ifthis team can’t help him, no one can. I expect to see a resurrection ofhis career at Team CSC as well. They wanted to bring some more Americans– we have two very good guys. Everyone would have wanted Floyd (Landis),but our team just couldn’t afford him. We had always mentioned George orFloyd, those pretty quick we’re not gonna work out.
VN: Is it better for you to have more Americans?
BJ: Having Americans changes nothing for me, because I’m socomfortable here is that everyone speaks English. The language is English,the meetings are in English. David grew up inside Postal Service, so it’sno big deal for him. But those of us have tried to be the only Americanon a foreign team, we know how lonely that can get. Not able to speak thelanguage. Christian said he was so happy to be back on a team that youcan be understood. It’s a huge thing.