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Tour de France is a bumpy ride for cyclist mom

G. Sean Kelly

July is never an easy month if you’re a mother of a Tour de France cyclist.

“I get scared to death,” said Glenwood Springs resident Bernadette Julich, whose son, Bobby Julich, begins his sixth Tour de France Saturday.

“Because of the 8-hour time difference, by 10 o’clock I read down the list of names and know he’s alive and I can go on with the rest of my day.

“I get a lot of gray hairs in July.”

While Bernadette Julich has to go through her nerve-racking daily ritual of checking the Internet for the finishers of each stage again this month, July is no picnic for the riders either.

Bobby Julich, a 1990 Glenwood Springs High School graduate, will ride 20 stages covering 2,046 miles over 22 days, in what many consider the most grueling event in sports.

Riding an average of over 102 miles per day (that includes the two days off) takes its toll on any body, but Julich has proven he has the mettle to compete with the top athletes in the sport.

Julich competed in his first complete Tour in 1997 and turned heads with a 17th-place overall finish. The following year he proved he wasn’t a flash-in-the-pan rider, taking the third spot on the podium in Paris.

After a serious crash in the 1999 Tour, Julich has steadily regained his previous form, finishing 48th in a team role with Credit Agricole in 2000 and posting a 18th-place finish last year, also with Credit Agricole.

This year, however, may be different for Julich. The biggest change is that Julich is no longer with the Credit Agricole team after signing a two-year contract with Team Telekom. And if one is to believe his most recent journal posting on bobbyjulich.com, he has a different role and different attitude this year as well.

“Since changing teams at the beginning of the season. I could not be happier,” he wrote in the March 23 entry.

“It was, indeed, a big change for me to go from being a `team leader’ to just a teammate, but the move has been an oddly comfortable one. Not having the pressure of being a leader has been a welcome change, but I still crave the life of a cyclist.

“I thought that I would have had more of a problem switching roles like this, but it came very naturally and I accepted it with a passion,” he added.

“I wanted to do as good a job as many riders had done for me in the past, and that was what kept me going.”

With Jan Ullrich sitting out this year’s tour due to a knee injury, it is unlikely Team Telekom will field a rider who will compete for the overall title this year. Telekom instead has been built around sprinter Erik Zabel, who is shooting for his seventh green jersey.

That’s not to say a dark horse couldn’t come off the team. Of course, conventional wisdom says that anyone not named Lance Armstrong should be considered a dark horse.

Another formidable U.S. Postal Service team surrounds Armstrong, and everyone from the media experts to bike shop owners picks the Texan to win his fourth-straight Tour.

“He is such an odds-on favorite, for somebody to beat him means that he has made a massive blunder,” said Hub of Aspen owner Charlie Tarver.

Tarver, however, believes that with Armstrong being such a heavy favorite, other racers can compete without much pressure to win, thus opening the door for proven performers like Julich and Telekom teammate Kevin Livingston, a former teammate of Armstrong.

And Julich does have some momentum coming into the Tour de France. He finished 29th last week in the Tour de Suisse – a tune-up race for the Tour de France – and was second in the final 34.5-kilometer time trial stage.

Along with Julich, Zabel and Livingston, the roster for Team Telekom in the Tour de France includes Gian Matteo Fagnini (the leadout man for Zabel), Rolf Aldag, Steffen Wesemann, Guiseppi Guerini, Alexandre Vinokourov and Danilo Hondo. Hondo replaces Andreas Kloden, whom Team Telekom announced would not compete due to a knee injury. Team manager is Walter Godefroot.

Saturday is opening stage begins in Luxembourg.


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