It was surprising news when Jaroslav Kulhavy announced he would race for his own team in 2019. The Czech Olympic Champion of 2012 and Olympic silver medalist of 2016 will once again race in Cyprus as part of his preparation for the Cape Epic.We spoke to the 34 year-old former World Champion about his decision to go alone, the reasons why his 2018 season was under par, and about why he prepares for the Cape Epic in Cyprus together with his partner - the US Champion - Howard Grotts.
Jaroslav, how was your winter and preparation for the season so far?
The winter preparation has been quite good, I began about 3 weeks later, but it’s okay because the World Cup starts later.
You will continue to race on Specialized Bikes, but in 2019 for your own team, Kulhavy Racing. What’s the reason for creating something on your own and when did you decide this? Why did you not stay in the very successful Team Specialized Racing?
Yes, I will race as part of my own project for 2019. After the 2018 season I was thinking about some changes and new motivation, so this combination is perfect, and I am really happy that I will continue together with Specialized. The news from Specialized Racing came quite late - of course I spoke with others teams, but nothing interesting came at the end. My own project gives more freedom and bigger motivation.
You are 34 years old; is this change also a kind of window into the future of Jaroslav Kulhavy, running your own team after your career? Like Thomas Frischknecht, Ralph Näf, Bart Brentjens and others?
Yes, it can be start of the “future team”, but now I have still have many goals for this season and the Olympic season. We also need to get stable partners for 2020.
For you, Cyprus and the Sunshine Cup are a kind of year-by-year entrance into the cross country season. What makes it worth it for you to repeat that every year?
I love Cyprus and the Sunshine Cup is perfect training before the main season. There’s also many UCI points so it’s the best option. It maybe looks like a boring program to be every year in Cyprus, but I like it - every stage is fun and nice riding. :)
In 2018 you rode the Afxentia stage race, the same as your Specialized teammate, Howard Grotts. In Cyprus you were racing against each other, but a few weeks later you won the Absa Cape Epic together. How important is it to have these days in Cyprus? Do you check some things together, or perhaps there’s another reason?
I mean that is good - first contact between partners a few weeks before the Epic. We tested our performance, bikes and other stuff. Also race intensity and contact with the terrain is very important after the winter.
In 2018 you won the Cape Epic for the third time, but afterwards your season didn’t run so smoothly anymore. Looking back, what was the reason for that?
It was many things together, but the main reason was a problem with breathing at the highest intensity; for the XC World Cup it’s quite a problem if you cannot work on 100%, but just 90-95%.
And what exactly caused that lack of breathing?
It looks like it was a muscle problem, probably started after my last injuries - a broken kneecap and wrist. There is a problem with an imbalance of the muscles and also a weak core system.
Regarding 2019, what’s your main focus, what’s important for you in this upcoming season?
The first goal is the Cape Epic, then I would like take back my “old” performance at the World Cups. Also Olympic selection is one of the goals.
What do you think about the Short Track format in the World Cup?
The short track changes a lot. There are many fast riders with ambitions, but somebody can then be more tired for XC race. It’s really about priorities. The XCC format can be good for spectators and it’s a better chance for sponsors when the riders are racing 2 times per race week.
For you personally, what did you learn about the impact of the Short Track on Sunday’s cross country race?
The main thing and problem was changes in my final training before the XC. Normally I had a rest day, now is there is the XCC, so I had to change the final four days of training before the XC.
You have won Gold and Silver at the Olympics. Are the 2020 games in Tokyo still an important goal for you?
Certainly. If I am healthy then Tokyo is a very important goal. My program will be almost same: XC plus some stage races and marathons, and maybe some more road races for training.