Mitsubishi's Stefan van Dijk: "I race to win."

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05.02.2008/ Stefan van Dijk signed with Mitsubishi - Jartazi for the 2008 season. The 32 year old Dutch rider is one of the captains of the Estonian team. Van Dijk rode with Wiesenhof - Felt in 2007 and saw with his own eyes how German cycling was sliding into its biggest crisis ever. An interview with Stefan van Dijk: "I race to win."

© Cyclingheroes
Stefan van Dijk signed with Mitsubishi-Jartazi (© Cyclingheroes)

Cyclingheroes: You rode for Wiesenhof last year. The team had to stop its operations after title sponsor Wiesenhof left the sport. Was it a sad farewell?
Stefan van Dijk: At first things looked good but then we suddenly heard that the sponsor would not continue. Jens Heppner and Raphael Schweda [team managers of Wiesenhof - Felt, editor] immediately looked for a new sponsor but unfortunately they didn't succeed. Also because of the negative headlines in Germany.
Cyclingheroes: You signed with Mitsubishi - Jartazi. Do you like your new team?
Stefan van Dijk: I came to the team to be one of the captains. They are doing everything to make it to a succes. Staff and riders are highly motivated and it really feels good to be here. We just finished a training camp [we did this interview on January 22, editor] and that was good to learn to know each other. There are a lot of new faces for me and some people I already knew. My first race for Mitsubishi will be Besseges and I am looking forward to it. Its always fun to race again after a long winter with  lot of training.
Cyclingheroes: How do you look back at the past season?
Stefan van Dijk: I had a lot of bad luck. I had a broken finger, a broken collar bone and a bacterie in my stomach so I only raced for four months. But I had good results in these four months. Unfortunately I didn't win but I was 15 times on the podium. But there should have been a nice victory, it didn't work out because I didn't have enough racing kilometres in my legs.
Cyclingheroes: What are your main objectives this season?
Stefan van Dijk: My first goal is always to come out of the winter without sickness. In the first races you already notice that you trained well and then you start to build up and you try to ride good in the spring. I want to play a role in the semi - classics [Races like Dwars door Vlaanderen and Nokere Koerse, editor] . Actually I want to try to win the races where I start [laughs, editor], of course I can't win them all but I will try to win them. I doesn't really matter which race I will win, I will be happy if I can win a stage... Last year I tried to do that the whole year butd it didn't work our for me: six times a second place.. so for me the most important thing is to win again.
Cyclingheroes: Do you think the team will receive a few wildcards for Pro-Tour races?
Stefan van Dijk: Jef Braeckevelt (Sports Director Mitsubishi - Jartazi, editor] has very good contacts with ASO and that could turn out to be important for us. I think its possible to get one or more wildcards for one day races, maybe Paris - Roubaix and the Tour of Flanders. Maybe also the Amstel Gold Race and Gent - Wevelgem. Personally I hope we will race the Eneco-Tour. 
Cyclingheroes: Last year the team started with a continental license under the name Jartazi. This year Mitsubishi joined forces with Jartazi and the team now has a Pro-Continental license. Will the team continue to grow?
Stefan van Dijk: They will decide after this year how things will develop but we are sponsored by Mitsubishi Belgium and of course we hope that Mitsubishi Europe will step in and then we can grow and get really big. They are speaking about it but nobody knows what decision Mitsubishi will take after this season... You never know in cycling. Wiesenhof also wanted to continue but after certain people made some remarks... Suddenly it was over and out.
Cyclingheroes: After all the incidents in Germany.. You rode for a German team and in Germany there was one negative headline after the other... Was it difficult to race in such a climate?
Stefan van Dijk: Not for me personally. But I noticed that a lot of German riders had a hard time, mentally it was difficult for them. You can do only one thing if you know that your team will stop operations. You have to perfom well, ride really good to show yourself to other teams. I had the feeling that some of the German riders hung their head in resignation and I am not used to see Germans do that. Most of them were young riders who had trouble to deal with it. For some of them it was really dificult to find a new team. For me it was different. I race to win and if my team will stop and I ride well, there will always be another team that will sign me. But of course its better if you know that you can stay with a team.

Cyclingheroes: German cycling is in a deep crisis, races are dissapearing, sponsors, teams.. Do you hear a lot about that in the Netherlands and Belgium?
Stefan Van Dijk: Cycling is a part of Belgian culture for about 100 years now. In Belgium cycling is almost as popular as football [European soccer, editor], maybe the popularity of cycling and football are even equal in Belgium... In the Netherlands football is more popular as cycling but there is a real cycling culture. Everybody is riding his bike. In Germany there is no real cycling culture, it started with the success of Jan Ullrich, everywhere in Germany you suddenly had new teams and now this fairy tale has fallen apart. Normally Germany is a strong country with enough potential sponsors for cycling but because everybody is only talking in a negative sense about cycling the sponsors are not interested anymore. Here [in Belgium, editor] we also talk about the sport itself and not only about the negative things that have happened.
Cyclingheroes: Is it true that people here have a different approach to cycling?
Stefan van Dijk: Frank Vandenbroucke [Teammate at Mitsubishi - Jartazi, editor] had a lot of problems in the last couple of years but if he is racing in Belgium people are still standing behind him. In Italy its the same... in Spain.. They will always remain heroes... and in Germany.. well Zabel still has a lot of credit. In the end people just want to see a great race and they are often not really interested in the rest. Sometimes it looks like its the opposite in Germany.
Cyclingheroes: Is ther one race that you absolutely want to win in your career?
Stefan van Dijk: Well not winning... but I would like to ride the Tour... I would like to win Dwars door Vlaanderen and I think its possible wity my capabilities.

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Stefan van Dijk
Birthdate: 22.01.1976
Place of Birth: Honselersdijk (Netherlands)
Height: 1.83 mtr.
Weight: 71 kg.
Turnéd Pro: 2000
2000           Cologne
2001           Bangiroloterij - Batavus
2002           Lotto - Adecco
2003 - 2004 Lotto - Domo
2005           Mr. - SportsTech
2006           *
2007           Wiesenhof - Felt
2008           Mitsubishi - Jartazi
Omloop van de Westkust De Panne
Tour of Noord-Holland
Stage 2 Course de la Solidarité Olympique
Stage 4 Course de la Solidarité Olympique
Stage 1 Tour of Holland
Prologue GP Erik Breukink
Stage 3 GP Erik Breukink
Omloop Wase Scheldeboorden
National Road Race Champion (Netherlands)
Stage 2 Tour of Denmark
Tour of Midden-Zeeland
Stage 3 Tour of Qatar
GP Fina - Fayt - Le - Franc
Stage 3 Tour de Picardie
Omloop Wase Scheldeboorden
Tour of Noord-Holland
Stage 3 Tour de Picardie
Dwars door Gendringen
Stage 5 Tour of Belgium
Tour of Fryslan
Stage 6 Eneco-Tour
Tour de Rijke
* Stefan van Dijk was banned from Octobet 22, 2005 until October 21, 2006 after anti-doping agents said they saw Van Dijk fleeing out of his house as they ringed the doorbell for a test, Van Dijk always denied.

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