Julich: Return to Tinkoff Saxo feels like home

Bobby Julich has described his move to Tinkoff-Saxo as 'a bit like coming home' after he re-joined the team he rode and coached for.

Julich joined Oleg Tinkov's team earlier this month as Head Coach, and spent last week climbing Mount Kilimanjaro with his new colleagues. He knows the spine of the management at the team having ridden for Bjarne Riis for several years before then stepping up to coach the team after his retirement from racing in 2008.

Julich re-joins the team having spent the last year-and-a-half at BMC Racing Team. Before that he coached at Team Sky from 2011 until 2012.

"I really enjoyed my time at BMC. It's a quality organisation but a different opportunity and a different challenge came my way," he told Cyclingnews after returning from the Kilimanjaro challenge.

"The Head Coach role was one that I really wanted but one that was already occupied at BMC. I'm really proud of what we accomplished at BMC but this chance at Tinkoff Saxo was interesting for me.

"I have a history with Bjarne. He knows me, I know him and it was a move that has come at the right time. I'm looking forward to the challenges that this opportunity presents. I'm looking forward to learning from someone like Oleg Tinkov who has been so successful in business."

The roster of riders Julich first left at the end of 2010 is very different to one he arrives at now. Gone are the likes of Fabian Cancellara, Jens Voigt and the Schleck brothers, with Matti Breschel, Chris Anker Sørensen among the few that remain. However the American has remained in contact with Riis over the years and kept his European base in Nice, where he lived as a rider.

"When I first left, the situation was in flux but I kept in contact with Bjarne and I've seen from the side-lines that although he had a difficult time at one point in terms of sponsorship, he's now able to focus a little bit more at what he's good at, which is building a team and making it the number one in the world," Julich said.

"It feels like I've come home, a little bit. It was an excellent experience at Kilimanjaro and I realised how many people are still there from when I left. I'm back working with some of the riders I used to work with, and along with Bjarne of course too."

Julich has worked in a number of roles since his retirement from racing but his move to Tinkoff-Saxo will see him take on more responsibility as he manages the collective of coaches the team has.

"Bjarne asked me what I wanted my title to be but I'm not very good at picking my own so when he said head coach and that clicked with me. It means that I'll be leading the coaching group and I'm really happy with the group that we have. Also I'll be bringing some ideas to Bjarne and manager Stefano Feltrin."

Zero tolerance or maximum understanding?

Julich's signing coincided with the recruitment of Sean Yates and Patxi Vila as directeur sportifs. Yates and Julich both worked at Team Sky, along with Steven de Jongh, who is joined Tinkov's team in 2012.

Julich and de Jongh both left the British team at the end of 2012 when the squad's zero tolerance policy was introduced. The pair later confessed to doping at points in their careers but found homes in new teams. There was no confession from Yates but he chose to briefly move out of the sport before returning with a domestic team this year.

"The bottom line is that we all have our pasts but we're moving towards the future," Julich said when asked about the moves to Tinkoff.

"Over the years though you figure out who you work well with and no doubt that in that moment in 2012, when we left Team Sky, we kept in contact because we were friends. Working together again is a great opportunity and it gives you the chance to start where you left off. We were in a groove in 2012 between the DS and coaching group and I have the ultimate respect for the guys I've worked with in the past."

Julich believes that his working relationship with Yates, de Jongh and the rest of the staff at Tinkoff-Saxo can get off to a flying start in 2015. He has no bitterness towards Team Sky over the termination of his contract and understands that while Tinkoff's recent run of hires may reprise questions over the past, he and the team are fully focused on building the future of the team.

"The thing is, this is a hard sport and everyone knows what went on [in the past]. You naturally keep a mental note of you who work well with, like Steven and Sean, and that's a major advantage as we've clicked and we can hit the ground running for next year.

"We all went through that period together after Sky and it was a bit of a transition for sure. I know, and I was definitely aware of the possible interpretation of this move but like I've said we're trying to move forward and we've learned from some of the mistakes we've made, and we feel like we can help guide the next generation of riders. I know it's a touchy subject to talk on but I think Sky is the only team with that mandate. I think the rest of the teams realise what the past was about.

"So from the outside looking in I can understand how people might interpret this but Oleg has really invested a large amount in sports science on this team. We're running from that platform and it makes sure that riders don't have to make the decisions we did. In my opinion sports science very much trumps the advantages that the last generation got from doping."

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