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Adoring fans fete Julich

Bobby Julich’s sister’s smile shined brighter than any medal Thursday night.It was a smile that only pride could create.”It goes beyond pride,” Robin Julich said about her younger brother. “Our dad always taught us to never compare ourselves to the worst. I look at my brother everyday and I compare myself to him. To me, he’s the best.”Judging from the large crowd who came out to honor Bobby Julich Thursday night at the Buffalo Valley Inn, Robin wasn’t the only one who thought the 34-year-old Glenwood Springs High School graduate is the best.”It’s inspiring,” said Lauren Martin, the pastor of Glenwood’s Mennonite church. “I’m a cyclist and did one race in my life, and that was it. I’m more of a recreational and exercise cyclist now. The ability he has to push himself beyond tired and just keep going is incredible.””I just wanted to come here tonight and shake his hand. He’s such a humble person, it’s inspiring to see what a person can do,” he said.Former high school classmate Joe Luetke agrees. “It’s rewarding to see people’s hard work pay off. It can happen here and I think Bobby has proven that fact,” Luetke said about succeeding at the Olympic level.Fans scooped up jerseys, caps and items from Julich’s cycling team to have him autograph.Local businessman and cyclist Gary Miller was one of the them.”It’s really an inspiration getting to meet him. This is a great opportunity that you don’t get too often,” he said.Robin, who played with 3-year-old niece Olivia, said the night was a clear demonstration of what her brother means to her.Julich’s cycling success, including the Olympics and a third place at the Tour de France and other victories in Europe, didn’t come without setbacks. Like the Alps and Pyrenees he grinds up and zooms down during the cycling season, Julich’s career has had plenty of peaks and valleys.”I strive everyday to do what he does because, in my opinion, when he could have quit, he didn’t. I have a huge amount of admiration for him.Julich was considering retirement several years ago when he was offered a spot on the CSC team. The rest is history, including a bronze in the time trial at the Olympics and one of the main support riders for Ivan Basso, the second-place finisher in the 2005 Tour and a favorite for 2006.Also present Thursday night was former World Cup mountain bike racer Rishi Grewal of Carbondale. He once rode on a time-trial team with Julich, seven-time Tour de France champion Lance Armstrong and Steve Larsen, who recently completed in the Ironman Triathlon.”I wanted to come down and show Bobby some support. He has really done well,” said Grewal, whose brother Alexi won a cycling gold medal at the 1984 Olympics.Rishi Grewal agrees that Julich had to overcome a number of obstacles in his career and that makes his success that much more impressive.”I think people just see a glimpse of how hard cycling is, so you really have to give Bobby kudos for what he’s accomplished. He’s a real hero of mine,” he added.Kurt Backofen, of Glenwood, who carried out an armful of autographed items, said it was a pleasure meeting Julich.”He’s really down to earth, it was really cool,” he said. “You follow him and read about him, so it’s really nice to meet him.”Backofen also said that, as a cyclist, meeting a world-class athlete is very special.”It’s people like him that get you out (riding) on rainy days.”Being surrounded by family, friends and fans was a fitting tribute for her brother, Robin said.”When you have a family-support system, or a friend-support system you honor their struggles and rejoice in their successes. And tonight it’s just proven that after the struggles there was success.”It was a night to rejoice and honor an Olympic bronze medalist, with a room full of smiling supporters.It was a night where pride took center stage.


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