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Interview with Bobby Julich
 
By Cathy Mehl
Date: 2/21/2006
Interview with Bobby Julich
 
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 future.

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 for you!

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 that I 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 there.

I love that photo of you with your daughter, where you are showing her your bronze medal.

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.


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