Julich in the pink
By Gabriella Ekström in Adelaide
Bobby Julich is riding in new colours for the first time in three years. After signing for Team Telekom in September last year, Julich will join his compatriot Kevin Livingston in the German powerhouse team of Jan Ullrich and Erik Zabel. In this interview, Bobby explains why he did it and what we can expect in '02.
CN: Hi Bobby. Is this your first time in Australia?
Bobby Julich: No, I was here last year. I think it is a great way to start to my season. I come here from a cold America, and it is sunny and everyone speaks English and I can get some nice training done before I go back to work.
CN: By you saying that, I assume you do not consider this race as work?
BJ: Well, it is work, but it is also a bit of vacation for me. The hotel is good and so is the food, and the stages aren't really that long.
CN:I saw that some of the Telekom riders were riding back to the hotel from the stage finish today.
BJ: Yeah, all the guys preparing for the spring season did that. We all rode back to the hotel the last two days, but today it was 80 kilometres back to the hotel, and there was no reason for me to do it, really.
CN: How are you all getting along in the team?
BJ: We are getting along really well. I haven't spent so much time with them, only three days on a training camp and six days here, but all of them speak English and that is nice. One of my ambitions is to learn German. My roommate David Kopp is teaching me some new words every day.
CN: How did you end up with Telekom?
BJ: I think Credit Agricole and I were just going different ways. They hired Christophe Moreau, and since he is a rider with pretty much the same talents as I have, they were moving towards a French team leader. Since my last two seasons haven't been that good, I felt it was time for me to move on and find a team where I could be more motivated and maybe get some good results.
CN: When did they contact you?
BJ: It was all pretty rapid. I had a lot of teams showing interest in me but not many real offers. Telekom approached me in August and I signed on the 9th of September. I think we will have a very good relationship.
CN: So are you looking forward to a new career as a domestique, or will you be the team leader in some races?
BJ: Besides the Tour and some World Cup races where the whole team will work only for Jan Ullrich and Erik Zabel, I will be able to have a go in races where I feel good.
CN: Does that mean you are giving up your own ambition of a top placing in the Tour de France?
BJ: Well, I am 30 this year, and even though I had some success in '98 I haven't been able to follow it up. The Tour will always be a special race, but I will be working for Jan.
CN: Is it possible that you might perform better now when some of the pressure is being taken away?
BJ: Yes, I think so. That was a problem with Credit Agricole, because I often found myself alone in the tougher races. That was not good for my confidence. In Telekom there is always four or five guys who are there to really race. It is a very interesting team for me. I'm looking forward to be a part of this team, and to have them motivating me, and maybe I can motivate them as well.
CN: Have you been discussing the Tour de France with the team yet?
BJ: We really haven't spoken about the Tour. I think our focus will remain on what we can do as a team, rather than if we can beat this one single rider.
CN: What does your schedule look like in the coming months?
BJ: I will do the Trofeo Laigueglia, then the Tour Haut Var, Vuelta a Valencia, Paris-Nice, Criterium International, Vuelta a Pays Basque, Fleche Wallone and Liege-Bastogne-Liege.
CN: In which one of these races would you like to perform well?
BJ: It all depends on how my training goes, but Paris-Nice is a nice race, especially since I live in Nice. Liege-Bastogne-Liege has always been one of my favorite races, but I've been lacking the condition to win it in the past.
CN: Do you think American cycling is looking forward to a bright future?
BJ: You would think that after having a guy like Lance Armstrong winning the Tour de France three times, cycling would be on it's way up in the States, but I actually think it has stayed pretty much the same. Everyone knows who Lance is, but the money just isn't there. One of the problems is that we don't have a big National Tour, as we used to have the Tour du Pont and the Coors Classics. Most of the American riders don't even go home for the National Championships.
Mercury was another great opportunity for American cycling, but it got blown by whoever blew it. I don't see another team like that coming along in the nearest future. When you see how US Postal is hiring more European top riders, you realize that more and more American riders will go to European teams, rather than forming one big American team.
CN: Do you see any solution to this, except for more money of course?
BJ: First of all I think we need a big national Tour, and I also think that the federation needs to work in a more streamlined way. For example, we arrived here without our licenses. Whoever was supposed to order them didn't and we had to enter this race with a faxed permission. It was five years since I raced in the States and it seems to me that all the nice races are gone, or at least much shorter. Cycling in America should be on the rise, not only because of Lance, but also because of all the great riders we have.