Sometimes it takes a few attempt
Sometimes it takes a few attempts to make an interview happen. For
several years now I've tried to catch up with Bobby Julich to interview him, and
it seems like things kept blocking the way to make the interview come off.
I would read interviews done by other journalists and wish that I'd been able to ask
Bobby that question. I finally resigned myself to the fact that an
interview with Bobby just
wasn't going to happen for me and I tried to take a Zen approach to the whole
thing. Then about a month ago I heard CSC was coming to Solvang to train
before the Amgen Tour of California, and suddenly I was inspired to try again to
interview him. Sure enough, once in town, CSC held a press conference
and I found myself face to face with Mr. Julich. Questions
in hand, we sat down and discussed Bobby's career and his outlook for the
Daily Peloton: Once you moved to CSC you talked a lot about being part
of a team instead of riding for yourself. But last year you got
some great results in Paris-Nice and Criterium International. It's almost
like once you decided not to be focused on yourself, the wins came. It was
almost like once you were willing to be a team player, then everything lined up
for you and you got the wins. Almost like a Zen thing was happening
Bobby Julich: It was pretty amazing, the transformation. But I'd
have to say the big thing was that from day one Bjarne gave me my confidence
back and that was the thing I was really lacking after crashing out of the Tour
in 1999, switching teams, going to Credit Agricole and then to Telecom.
I honestly thought I'd be able to have the kind of comeback that I've had with
CSC when I went to Telecom. It was pretty apparent right away that they
weren't the team I was looking for. I've always had in the back of my head
the way I'd run a team if I was in charge or if I could put together the "Dream Team."
When I came to CSC I realized the first day that this is the team I was looking
for. And Bjarne gave me that confidence but he also gave me my voice back.
He listened to what I had to say. I feel like I've been in this sport a
long time and I'm not trying to sound like a prima dona, but when I see things
that maybe could be changed, well, why can't they be changed? If the
answer is just, "No, we can't change that because it's too much work," then I
don't think that's a good answer.
But when I came to this team and they
listened, it was just like a total breath of fresh air. Everyone was on
the same page. After the first year, I said to myself that it was just a
fluke that it seemed that way. But second year it was even better. Now
third year, we haven't started the season yet, but just the overall cohesiveness
of the team is even better. By the time other teams catch on to what we're
doing here at CSC we will be light years ahead. We have a much bigger
responsibility now and I am just so appreciative of being
here. I know my being here has helped make this team the #1 team in the
world and I'm proud of the relationships and help I've given to my team just as
much as the wins that have now come to me due to these relationships.
So you are absolutely right when you say the Zen thing is happening. When
you open yourself up and you communicate and you trust people and you're
committed to people and you work as a team, good things happen. One bad
apple spoils the bunch, and I think that Bjarne's special gift is that he picks the
riders he thinks can work well together under his system, and get along together
as friends and as teammates. I've been on teams with guys who I barely knew
their first names. You can't really put it all on the line for a guy if
you don't really know and respect that person. Our values on this team are
Teamwork, Communication, Loyalty, Respect and Commitment. That says it all
right there. When everyone is vibing off those same five values, and
living by them and respecting them, things go a lot easier. And this is
something I'm not going to toss aside when I'm done with cycling. Whatever
I do in the future will have bits and pieces of what Bjarne has taught me these
last three years.
DP: You've talked a lot about what he's given you, but it seems to me
you've given back a lot too. You've been open to change and you've been open
to a new system in the latter part of your career.
Julich: I think that it's been an advantageous relationship for both of us. And
I think that the results we've had wouldn't be possible without me and I also
feel the results we've had wouldn't be possible if Bjarne didn't give me that
chance. He was the only one. Basically I was retired; I was done.
So as many times as I want to say, "Yeah, I've done a lot for the team," I have to
realize that the team has done a lot for me. Sometimes you get paid a lot of
money and get no results and sometimes you get less money but you're happier and
you get better results. To me money isn't everything and the respect and
relationships with the people I work with mean a lot to me.
What a nice way to end your career--whenever that might be. To go out
on a high note.
Absolutely. I was very close to retiring in 2003 when Bjarne called me.
He offered me a small contract but a chance to still have a chip in the game.
I guess if I had more ego I would have said no way was I going to ride for that
amount; I deserve more. But there was a part of me that knew I needed to
live with myself for the rest of my life and if I don't get out every single bit
of competitive spirit when I'm racing then I'll regret it forever. Now I
can honestly say that no matter what happens I showed myself that I am a good rider,
and that's the most important thing in the world to me. I just needed to find the right
team. And that it wasn't just a two year fluke that I was good in the
Tour. That I am a good cyclist. That makes me feel so much better.
There were so many questions in my mind. I was beginning to wonder myself
what I was doing wrong. Now I have goals and I would love to ride two,
maybe three more years. But I can now honestly say when I retire from the sport
gave it all I have.
I imagine that your wife had to help you through some of those dark times.
She was it!
She must be really happy now...
She is, but at the same time she likes her privacy. Of course it pained
her to see me struggling and to see the people and sponsors that turned their
backs on me. She saw the effort that I was putting in and I was putting in
the same amount of effort, but there just wasn't that extra 5 per cent I needed
to give because I was getting nothing in return. She saw that. Now
that I am more successful, our privacy is different. She says she kind of
liked it better before! I tell her to be careful what you wish for,
because we've been through it all before. A part of it is just the vicious
world of sports. The bandwagon fans, the hot and cold fans. All I
know is that I've been able to provide for my family and to be successful and
most importantly to do something I absolutely enjoy. She's been behind me
through thick and thin. Through it all. I honestly count my lucky
stars every night that she's been there with me and has been able to share the
successes as well as those failures. We're life partners and I'm glad that
she saw me at what I hope is my darkest time and I'm glad that she was there at
my best times, like winning Paris-Nice and third in the Olympics. She was
I love that photo of you with your daughter, where you are showing her your
A lot of people ask me with the Tyler Hamilton thing if I think I should have
the silver medal, and I tell them I don't want it. All of my memories are of
getting off the Olympic podium, breaking Olympic protocol, running over to my
family, and my daughter running out from beneath the barricades and hugging me
and looking at my medal. She was the first one to touch that medal.
That was the moment.
Is there still a goal in cycling that you hope to attain before you retire?
Something you will really be going for this year?
I definitely have two ultimate goals that I am saving. I hope I can
accomplish them before I retire. But I have some pretty impressive
momentos that I've earned. I have the first ever Pro Tour jersey, I was on
the podium in the Tour de France. Those sort of things. But there
are two things that I'm really missing. I don't care what comes with it,
but I will always miss it if I don't get it. I want to be National
champion and have the National champion jersey hanging on my wall. And to
have the yellow jersey of the Tour de France hanging on my wall. Just for
a day I want to wear the jersey. I'm not saying my goal is to win the Tour
de France because obviously if that was supposed to happen it would have
happened by now. But just like Jens, my best friend, that son of a gun,
he's had it two years! We've been together in the Tour de France and he's
had the yellow jersey twice! But only for one day. But I said,
"Jens, that's all you need. That's all you need. One day and you're
a Yellow Jersey. "
So three goals actually: I'd like to win the Stars and Stripes jersey,
to have the yellow jersey and the ever-elusive stage win in the Tour.
Those are pretty lofty goals and that's why they haven't been attained quite
yet. But, well, things can happen.
But this year the US Pro championship is a different event.
Yeah, and different time of year. I hope I can make it back for it.
You always have to have something to motivate you. I have a collection of
jerseys that I've saved. I guess I've gotten a little bit nostalgic over the
years. I keep one from each team or ones of distinction. And I have
two special alcoves in my house that are backlit. They are empty right now
but I've always said, "I'm going to have the Yellow Jersey in that one and the
Stars and Stripes in that one." An Olympic gold medal would be super to
have too, but just to have those two jerseys...I remember when I first got into
bike racing, riding with these kids in Grand Junction. They were telling
me about being a licensed racer. They said, "You're fourteen, so you'd be
in the fourteen-fifteen category, so if you win you get a jersey with the state
flag of Colorado on it. I was like, "For free?!! Wow!" That's
all I wanted, and I got one a few years later. And I still have it.
To me, medals and trophies and money is great, but that momento, that jersey
that I will be able to look at when I'm eighty or ninety years old and all those
memories will come flashing back to me...that's really special.