Julich may be missing one thing in his career
It’s been a cobblestone year for cycling.Rough and rugged.For Glenwood Springs’ Bobby Julich, it’s been the same.A year paved with disappointment.He went through some illness and was left off the Tour de France roster for Team CSC. After the Tour, he had a decent ride in the Tour of Germany.But as hard and fast as Julich rides, there’s no escaping the mean, unmerciful foe all athletes must succumb to eventually. Age.Julich’s cycling mortality is knocking on the door. He’ll soon be 36. As fiendish as age is to Julich, the sport itself seems to be plotting against him as well.For a cyclist who’s never been remotely linked to doping, it’s bizarre that doping scandals have stalked him like an angry bill collector.Julich has had one of the greatest careers in American cycling history. But he remains in the shadows when discussion of great American cyclists is passed around.Lance Armstrong has set a standard that no cyclist can really hope to achieve.But it was Julich who was the second American ever, at that time, to stand on the Tour podium, when he placed third in 1998.That was the first year that doping allegations flooded their way into the headlines. Teams and individuals were booted from the Tour, there were protests and demands to get a handle on the sport.The doping cloud settled over the 1998 Tour and kept Julich’s podium finish in the shadows.But it was Julich who was the start of a 10-year run by four Americans who have stood on the podium, including this year when Levi Leipheimer claimed third.As Armstrong dominated the Tour, doping allegations trotted closely behind. But the seven-time Tour winner never failed a drug test.In 2004, Julich won the bronze medal in the Athens Olympics. Then another doping cloud moved into the picture, but not connected to Julich.Gold medal winner Tyler Hamilton failed a drug test. He was eventually given a two-year ban from the sport but was allowed to keep his gold medal.The entire 2007 Tour has rocked with doping allegations and facts. In 2006, Tour winner Floyd Landis was accused of failing a drug test. He denies ever using drugs.The scandal created by the Landis fiasco sent the sport spiraling. A decision has yet to be made on Landis’ title.In an attempt to get control of the doping problems, cycling officials seem to have gone to such an extreme that its witch-hunt mentality has created more disturbing questions.The lack of drug testing protocols and outright breaches in testing standards are a tremendous concern.It’s those problems that heightened people’s support of Landis.If the Landis situation gave the sport a black eye, this year’s Tour has left the sport hemorrhaging out of control.Julich has one main goal left: The 2008 Olympics in China.Less than a year away, this is most likely Julich’s final chance to slap an exclamation point on a stellar career spent mostly in the shadows through no fault of his own.Another Olympic medal for Julich will be a long shot, but he’s shown tremendous resilience throughout his career.Age is now the question.The aftershocks from the doping scandal continue to ripple through the sport. If they truly want to get a handle on the drug problem, they need to look at the sport from top to bottom, and in the mirror.With Julich’s focus on the time trial event in the Olympics, the future of the Tour might not matter to an aging cyclist who’s nearing the end of his career.Even with no more accomplishments, his résumé is impressive. Third in the 1998 Tour, third in the 2004 Olympics and the first-ever American to win Paris-Nice.If he makes the 2008 Olympic team, it will likely be his final shot at a major cycling victory or top-three finish.In a sport where black clouds continue to hover overhead, Julich hopes to make one last mark on his career.It’s been a career where one of the main things missing just might be appreciation. Dale Shrull is managing editor of the Post Independent.
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