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Pro Shop: Evolution of an Athlete

Pro shop is back! This month, two of the top Americans in the final Pro Tour standings, Bobby Julich and George Hincapie, return to PEZ to field our questions about the 2005 season, how they have evolved as athletes, and what to look for in 2006.

Due to high demand, we are bringing back our unique approach of asking the top pros questions and applying their answers to your training; our goal is for you becoming a better cyclist.

PEZ – Before we get to the off-season, after its first year, what do you think of the Pro Tour system? What did you like about it? What, if anything would you change?

Bobby J – Given that it was the first year, I think that the Pro Tour was better than expected. I really liked having the best teams at every race. I think that the Pro Tour races following the Tour were the races that benefited the most from this new style of racing. With the higher level of racing seen in the Pro Tour, I was able to keep my motivation and really have fun in the races.

I have to say that I think the point system has to be looked at in the future. With points only being awarded to the winner of the stage (top 3 for grand tours) and the top 10 overall (top 20 for grand tours) it was very difficult to get points. I think that they should allow points for the first 3 on the stage in all races as well as award points to the top 20 in stage races and top 40 in grand tours. That gives more riders a chance to mark points and something to show for their season. Many riders this year didn’t mark a single point in the Pro Tour but are still great riders.

George – I think it has started off pretty well. All of the Pro Tour races seemed to be a lot harder and there were always more spectators. I think the points system should change a bit. I won 2 stages of the Dauphine and 1 stage of the tour, but I only made 5 points for that. At the same time I won 40 points for winning Plouay. That does not seem right.

PEZ – It seems, more than ever, that Americans are making a bigger impact on European cycling with more riders and better results (i.e. look at the Pro Tour Standings). What do you think is the biggest reason for this shift over the past few years?

Bobby J – It is just our time. We have made sacrifices for years being away from home and this was just the year that it came together for many of us. We are not getting any younger and hopefully this will motivate guys like Saul, Tyler, and Tom to step up and keep it going. Even though most of us are on different teams we seem to feed off and motivate each other with results.

George – The Americans had a great year this year. We all have more experience, and we also have to make such a commitment to leave our homes here in the US. Once we’re over in Europe it’s all about training and racing hard. The good thing about being in Europe is that you don’t have all the distractions when you’re living at home.

PEZ – You both had an incredible year. Did you do anything different (physically or mentally) that accounted for such a great year and rebirth of sorts? Or do you attribute it more to your increased experience? What is the major goal for you and the team in 2006?

Bobby J – I didn’t change anything from last season. 2004 was my comeback season and 2005 was my confirmation. Changing teams, having fun with my teammates, and getting my confidence back were keys to the changes I made, but experience allowed me to put it all together. When I thought that my career was over after 2003, I said that if I was given another chance to stay in the peloton I would make the best of it. I feel that I certainly have done that and now when I do decide to stop it will be with no regrets!

I believe that we are going to have an even better team in 2006. The burden of winning the Tour has fallen on our shoulders and we have to get ready. It is up to Ivan to win the Tour, but it is also the responsibility of everyone else on the team to be ready to support him. We proved this year that our team can win races from Feb-Oct and now we have to build on that and try to do it better. There is always room for improvement and I think that we are just on the tip of the iceberg.

George – I did a couple of things different. I had a baby. My doctor and I finally got my health sorted out. I was having some stomach issues for the last 2 seasons. Once we got that cleared up I felt so much better. I also did some mental training which help me as well. My goals are to have another great season, hopefully better than this year.

Sacrifice – One of the key points mentioned by both Bobby and George is the sacrifice it has taken to be successful. This is applies to all levels of the sport. If you want to be successful, you have to sacrifice other areas of your life to do so. It’s important to understand that different athletes require various degrees/types of sacrifice. What may be right for one may not be right for another. Find the balance that fits you best.

Experience and patience – Both Bobby and George are now veterans of the European peloton. Experience, which requires both time and patience to obtain, plays a significant role in becoming a better rider. Some athletes take longer to develop fully than others. Not everyone is born a superstar and can mount a bike and be an instant winner. It may take years to accomplish your goals. Become students of the sport. Learn as much as you can about yourself as an athlete and pay special attention to race tactics and how riders win races. Store everything, both good and bad in what I call your “knowledge base”. That “knowledge base” will then become your own personal databank of experiences accumulated over the years that will play a significant role in your success.

Always looking for ways to improve – As an athlete, it’s always important to seek out new methods of improvement, to look at different training approaches that might make you a better rider. Don’t confuse this approach with never being satisfied with your successes. A lot of athletes are always looking for something else, they are never satisfied and don’t appreciate the success they have had. I am talking about building upon your successes, about trying new things, working on your weaknesses. Remember, improvement requires time and patience. Make it a habit to record what works and what doesn’t work for you. Outside our sport, Tiger Woods is a great example. He had career year in 2001. He then re-invented his swing, because he stated “I always need to look for ways to improve and get even better”. Continued success comes from within the athlete.

Both Bobby and George are great examples of what you can accomplish when there is dedication and persistence involved. Both have paid their dues and worked very hard to get to the top level of the sport. Use this off season to evaluate yourself as an athlete both physically and mentally. Give yourself credit where credit is due. Continue to work on your weaknesses and remember it’s not just all about results, it’s about the journey! Good luck!

About Bruce
Bruce Hendler created AthletiCamps to provide cycling specific coaching and training to athletes and cyclists of all levels. Find out more at www.athleticamps.com

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