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Vidakovich column: Don’t make me stop this bus!

Mike Vidakovich

Bobby Julich grew up in Glenwood Springs and is a 1990 graduate of Glenwood High School. Julich made quite a name for himself as a professional cyclist, teaming early on in his career with a guy named Lance Armstrong as Americans began to slowly make inroads into what was once a sport that was almost exclusively dominated by Europeans.

In 1998, Julich would finish third in the prestigious Tour de France, which is widely regarded as cycling’s most coveted prize. A silver medal awaited Julich in the 2004 Olympic Games in Athens, Greece, in the cycling time trial. The former Glenwood Demon, who now lives in Greenville, South Carolina, had ascended to the top of the cycling world and had etched his name with the greatest Americans the sport had ever produced.

Since his graduation from GSHS three decades ago, I believe I have seen Julich on one other occasion here in town. With his cycling obligations and the extensive travel that goes with it, his trips to Glenwood were few and far between. I followed his cycling journey on television through the years, catching the nightly highlights of the Tour in his glory year of ’98. I paid special attention whenever I heard an announcer mention that he was in a race to see if I could catch a glimpse of him. Anyone from Glenwood doing that well on the world stage deserved the support of friends and acquaintances back home at all times.

Julich was on the television again this past Sunday night. He’s long since retired from competitive racing, but an ESPN documentary on Lance Armstrong featured several clips of Julich commenting on his time spent with Armstrong and the ups and downs of the world of professional cycling. Though he is nearing 50 years old, Julich still has a youthful look and is much the same as I remember him through the years.

I knew Julich well when he was a boy here in Glenwood. Along with some other notable characters such as Jon Pressler, Dirk Bird, Joey Luetke, Freddy Flohr, Dominick Durrett, Neil Goluba, Davey Scott, Garrett Haycock, Steve Davis, Taj Cooper and Adam Wiggins, Julich was one of the boys I got to coach in the summer little league baseball program.

Our teams back then were pretty good, and Julich was one of the better players. He played first base and usually batted in the 3 spot or cleanup, so he was no slouch on the baseball diamond. I do remember that when we did our pre-practice running, Julich would run out ahead of everyone, never seeming to tire. A hint of things to come on the bicycle.

I’m not sure Bobby would remember the summer afternoon trip to a baseball game in Aspen, but it has always stayed with me as one of the more amusing days around a bunch of fun-loving 11- and 12-year-old boys who didn’t have a care in the world.

When I think about that day, I still have to smile.

I was driving the bus down Highway 82 from Aspen following our baseball game and the boys were clamoring for me to stop at the 7-Eleven in Basalt to get a Slurpee. I told them a few times to pipe down until I finally got tired of the noise and pulled the bus into the convenience store when we got to Basalt.

When the team was all loaded back up and on the road, I noticed they had all gathered together in the very back seats of the bus and were being highly entertained and awed by something or someone. As I had grown accustomed to doing with this group, I told them to quiet down once again. The unruly commotion continued until I finally reached the end of my already frazzled rope. I gave them, loud and clear, the old “Hey, don’t make me stop this bus!”

The caught-with-your-hand-in-the-cookie-jar moment came when I happened to look in the rearview mirror and noticed a magazine being held up in the air at an extra wide and extra high angle. I pulled the bus over and marched to the back of the bus as I was greeted with 12 or 13 bug-eyed guilty looks.

Along with cool and refreshing Slurpees, it seemed the boys had managed to borrow July’s copy of Playboy from the magazine rack at the 7-Eleven. I confiscated the magazine and asked who the culprit was. Sticking together — or apart — I got fingers pointing in all directions from each one of them. No one would fess up.

I can’t really remember what I said to them, but there wasn’t much punishment involved. I didn’t condone taking something without paying for it, but I loved those guys a lot. They kept me smiling and at the time, I wasn’t a whole lot older — or smarter — than they were.

Joey Luetke remembers a bit about that fateful afternoon trip from Aspen. It would be interesting to know if Julich does.

And, for the record, I did take that magazine home that day, but only for the purpose of reading some of the fine articles.

They have some famous authors in those magazines, Don’t you know?

Mike Vidakovich grew up in Glenwood Springs, is a longtime youth sports coach and is a regular sports contributor for the Post Independent.


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