Glenwood Springs’ Bobby Julich calls it a career
GLENWOOD SPRINGS – A recent bike ride served to remind Bobby Julich that he had made the right decision in choosing to retire from professional cycling. Cruising a mountainous route in the Reno-Lake Tahoe area, where Julich owns a home, the 36-year-old Tour de France and Olympic veteran had a revelation of sorts.”I just smelled the mountain air,” he said by phone Monday afternoon, “and rather than worry about my heart rate, cadence, things like that, I knew I made the right decision.”Interestingly enough, Julich traveled the same route five years ago when he made the decision to continue his cycling career and sign a one-year deal with Team CSC, a one-year commitment that turned into five strong years with the team.”At the bottom of the hill, I decided to call [team owner] Bjarne [Riis] and accept the contract,” Julich, a 1990 Glenwood Springs High School graduate, recalled. “Five years later, I’m on the same road and there wasn’t that feeling of regret like five years ago on that same ride.”And so Julich officially called it a career, announcing Monday through a Team CSC Saxo Bank press release a decision he said he made back in June. It’s a decision he said he mulled last year as well.”I actually kind of went through this situation last year,” he conceded. “Then I was convinced by my boss and a bunch of teammates to go for another year. I realized early on in the season that I’m not able to mentally make the sacrifices to be at the top level any more. “I went through a denial phase, but when I wasn’t selected for the Tour de France and especially when I wasn’t selected for the Olympics, I said, ‘You know what? I’ve played this video game called cycling long enough and, this year, I’m out of quarters finally.'”Julich’s professional resume is nothing to balk at. Before being left off Team CSC’s Tour de France roster the past two Julys, he had competed in nine Tours. His best finish: a third-place, podium finish in 1998.Julich went on to win a time-trial bronze medal at the 2004 Summer Olympics in Athens, Greece, following that up with perhaps his best professional season in 2005. That year, he became the first American to win the Paris-Nice race in addition to wins at Critérium International and the Eneco Tour of Benelux.But he’s not most proud of any particular win. What rates highest in Julich’s memory bank is how long he hung around the sport.”I’m proud of the longevity of my career,” he said. “I saw the highest of highs and the lowest of lows, but I was always able to pick myself up off the mat. I definitely didn’t take the easy road. In many regards, I’m self-made.”Take, for example, the 1993 pro season. Julich lost a sponsor at the last minute, leaving him teamless. He almost called it quits then, but kept on racing using his credit card to fund travel to various events.Sticking with cycling turned out to be a great decision for Julich, whose best was yet to come.And with the subsequent successes came opportunities beyond what he ever imagined. Like the chance to see the world and experience different cultures.”It was a great opportunity to see the world and expose myself, my wife and my children to other cultures, other food, other languages,” Julich explained.And, to think, it all started in a small mountain town called Glenwood Springs.
Julich’s mother, Bernadette Julich, recalls her son’s initial foray into cycling, which was born of his dad’s obsession – triathlons.”Bobby started at 11. He was training with his dad [Bob Sr.] for a triathlon and his father said to him, ‘Do you want to be a triathlete?'” said Bernadette, who still lives in Glenwood Springs. “Bobby said, ‘I don’t like swimming, and running I can take it or leave it. But I like cycling.'”So Bob Sr. took Bobby Jr. to a junior race in Boulder, where the younger Julich showed his natural cycling talent by winning his age category.”The rest is history,” Bernadette said.Bobby, who began calling Glenwood Springs home at the age of 2 and a half, went on to craft quite the junior career, one that spawned into quite the professional career once he made the leap in 1992.
Don’t expect Julich to entirely sever his ties with cycling. Not with so much blood and sweat invested in the sport.He’s been reviewing his options in recent weeks and hopes to sustain his association with Team CSC Saxo Bank.Although Julich will first probably take some time to map out the next phase of life.”There are a lot of things happening,” he said. “Even before I announced my retirement I was receiving inquiries, having some meetings. I definitely want to take a couple months, maybe even a year, to make decisions on what I’ll commit to. Good decisions aren’t made in desperate times, and I’m not in a desperate situation.”Cycling’s been good to me. It’s not like I have to go out and work at McDonald’s to pay the rent. At the same time, I’m a very energetic person, a hard worker. I need something to do during the day.”And CSC may figure into that day to day.”If Bjarne has interest in keeping me on with the business side of things, I may elect to do that,” Julich said.Julich also said he has aspirations of one day having his own team. Hence, administrative experience would serve as a brick in the road to such an end. “Just getting some experience on the other side of the fence, to learn why decisions are made from the management’s side,” he said.Until Julich sets his mind on what’s next, he seems content spending time with his family – his wife, Angela, and two daughters, 5-year-old Olivia and 1-year-old Chloe. All are back at the Julichs’ home in Philadelphia.”Olivia turns 6 on Sunday, and my daughter Chloe will be 2 on Oct. 3,” Julich proudly boasted. “When I’m back there I’ll have a couple weeks of birthday cake and then some activity to burn off those empty calories.”And so starts a new phase of life for Julich, one that includes birthday parties, family and perhaps a return to cycling – on the business side of the fence, anyway.It’s a future Julich’s comfortable with.”I consider myself much more than a professional bike racer,” he said. “I’m looking forward to the next phase of life. This is probably the biggest pivot point in my life to date. I’ll face it head on and use all the hard work and dedication I learned through being a professional cyclist in whatever I choose.”
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