The SEG Racing Academy have a very strong roster for 2018, and we have already introduced you to two of the returning stars, Edoardo Affini and Stevie Williams. Next up is the current Dutch U23 Time Trial Champion, Julius Van Den Berg. This interview will allow you to get to know another of the brilliant talents on the team’s roster.
Julius took some time out of his 2018 preparations to speak exclusively with U23 Cycling Zone. First up we discussed the season he had in 2017, where the 21 year old was consistently up there with the best, even if the big win did elude him this year.
“My 2017 season was good! I’m satisfied with how I was riding. The results were good but I l want more, and I will fight to get the win in the most important races of the calendar”.
His biggest success was without doubt his national championships win, which allowed him to wear the famous Dutch jersey. Julius broke down the time trial for us in great depth.
“The whole period around Nationals, I was feeling strong and good in the races. I was confident that my form was good that day. But I really didn’t know that I could win there. It was a really good day. I knew the parcours, the few hills that were in the parcours suited me pretty well. So I was excited to start the time-trial. I could pace myself pretty well and the rest is history! I wore the kit only in one time-trial, and it was 4km short so not the best distance for me! But it was really cool to wear it, and the pictures were amazing with the customised bike that I got from Koga.”
Julius excels in the TTs (8th in U23 Giro stage, National U23 Champ, 15th in U23 European Champs and 10th in Olympia’s Tour prologue), as well as in hard Classic-like races. The best one-day results he had were 4th in the U23 Nationals, 26th U23 Flanders, 16th ZLM Tour, 19th Fleche Ardennaise, 21st U23 Paris-Roubaix, 6th Profronde van Noord Holland, 10th Slag om Nord and 15th Putte-Kapellen. He was also 12th on GC in Tour de Bretagne and 4th overall in the Olympia’s Tour. With this array of talents, Julius isn’t exactly sure where his strengths lie.
“I’ve been working on that for four years with the Academy, but I think I need a hard race. A race where everyone is getting tired at the end of the race, with some bad weather and of course a hard parcours. In almost all the U23 Classics, the race this year was a hard one. I think little hills like the Ardennes and in Bretagne are suited for me, but as well as the Classic races like Flanders and Roubaix. So I’ think that I am a really complete guy who can fight for the win in most of the races”.
Earlier this offseason, SEG Racing Academy announced Michel Cornelisse would join the team as a talent coach. Given his WorldTour experience, what did Julius think his compatriot could bring to the table for himself and his teammates?
“I think Michel is a really experienced and smart guy when it comes to cycling. So, I think he can really help us with getting results and growing as a rider. I think experience is an important thing in cycling. We had Michiel Elijzen from the WorldTour and now we have Michel, that is a really good thing. They know how things are on a WorldTour level and what they expect from you, so they can really prepare us for that.”
With riders like Adriaan Janssen and Fabio Jakobsen departing from the team, Julius will be on of the key leaders in the team in the coming season. However, he thinks the Academy will have plenty of cards to play in the finals of races, which he says will give the team a tactical advantage.
“We have another strong team for the upcoming season. With the U23 races we have a few guys who are really good at these kind of races, so I will not be the only leader I think. I think that is a good thing. If you have a few guys in the final of a hard race you work together to get the win. But being the man who needs to get the result in a race is the best thing the DS can say in the team meeting. The feeling that you need to do it, is a really exciting for me. So of course there is pressure, but positive pressure, the kind of feeling you need to be really focused and to do everything to win the race.”
Julius was very clear on what his biggest goal for the coming season was: winning races. He did, however, have a few specific races he wanted to do really well in during the 2018 season.
“My goal is winning. I want to win races. Last year I was a few times close to winning races but I missed that extra few percent that allows riders to win. This year I hope to be good enough to win. The biggest goals will be: Tour de Bretagne, Flanders, Roubaix and Liege-Bastogne-Liege. I hope I can have a really good result in at least one of those races.”
Despite being Dutch, Julius picked a very Belgian race as the one he would like to win most. However, when you consider the parcours and the awful weather that traditionally accompanies the race, it is not hard to see why he picked the race he picked.
“Omloop het Nieuwsblad Elite with heroic weather. It’s a really cool race in the early season. And the parcour is maybe the coolest there is.”
There you have it. Julius is a very talented and consistent rider who is on a mission for 2018. He wants that big win that eluded him in 2017. He has all the skills and track record to go out there and win that race.
U23 Cycling Zone would like to thank Julius for taking part in the interview and we wish him all the best in achieving his goals for 2018 and beyond. Thanks, as always with all SEG Racing Academy business, goes to press officer David Soteras for setting everything up. You can follow Julius on Twitter at @JuliusJelmer.