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Photo: -cr- Team CSC (Bobby Julich)
Extended Online Version
Reno resident Bobby Julich’s Tour de France résumé epitomizes the topsy-turvy nature of professional cycling. In 1998, he stood on the podium after finishing third overall in the world’s most prestigious road race. Last year, a horrific crash robbed Julich of an opportunity to achieve his lifelong goal, to win a stage of “Le Tour” and wear the famed yellow jersey.
From July 7 to 29, the 35-year-old Julich, a Team CSC rider who earned a bronze medal in the 2004 Olympic individual time trial, hopes to compete in what could be his last Tour de France. In the near future he will give up the travel-weary life of a pro cyclist to devote more time to his family, wife Angela and daughters Olivia, four, and Chloe, nine months.
Julich grew up in Colorado and has owned a home in Reno since 1999. In April, while he spent time at his second home in Nice, France, Julich spoke with Nevada Magazine associate editor Matthew B. Brown.
Q Explain your connection to Nevada.
A When I was living in Sacramento [in the early ‘90s], my girlfriend, who is now my wife, and I started going up to [Lake Tahoe] to get away from the hot summers. We would go on a Friday when she got off school and get a hotel, and then I’d ride around the lake the next day and we’d spend the rest of the time hiking, mountain biking, or sitting on the beach. Our favorite beaches were Meeks Bay and Sand Harbor. We just fell in love with the area.
About five years later I went to Reno for a sponsor dinner. Before then I hadn’t heard great things about Reno, but when I went riding I realized this is a perfect location for me to be based-to train at altitude, be close to a big airport, and be close to San Francisco.
Q Where in Reno do you live?
A In Galena—right on the tree line. I needed to live at least at 6,000 feet, and that was the only place in the area I could live at 6,000 feet and still get to my house year-round. We don’t get too slammed with snow.
Q So the Reno-Tahoe training conditions are ideal for most of the races you do?
A I think it’s perfect. The altitude is the first and foremost reason why I moved there. The long, steady climbs are perfect for building up during the offseason, improving your base and conditioning miles, and getting ready for the European season. You can really work on your anaerobic system. It’s usually really sunny—once in a while we have a lot of wind, but I just love being outdoors. Being in the area is just…the best.
Q What would be a good route for a Tour of Nevada—if there was such a thing?
A It would definitely be focused around Truckee, Geiger Grade, Mount Rose Highway, and then a really cool criterium in downtown Reno. They used to have a criterium in the Coors Classic. It was at night, and they had all the casino lights on, and everyone was out there watching. It was really a festive sort of thing. It would be really cool to have a stage in downtown Reno under the Silver Legacy bridge.
Q Your 2006 Tour de France ended prematurely when you crashed and broke your wrist. What happened?
A It was bizarre. I felt so good the day or two before the time trial, and then in the warmup I never expected to get up to the speed that I was going so quickly. My wheels slid out and I [wrecked] into the curb. I had a crack in the scaphoid, did a little damage to the joints, and had a half-dollar-sized wound that was really open. You could see all the muscles and tendons. All the skin was gone, and for the doctors the biggest concern was the risk of infection. They had to put me under a local anesthetic, kill all the sensation in my arm, and really clean the wound. I have a nice little scar that I look down at a couple hundred times a day that reminds me of that terrible day. Hopefully I’ll be able to turn it around in the Tour de France this year. It’s motivated me to come back at least one more time.
Q Is your goal always to win the Tour de France, or do you set your sights on smaller victories, like winning a stage or helping someone on your team win?
A My days of putting pressure on myself to win the Tour are long gone. My goals in the Tour are to be there to support the leaders we have, which this year will be Carlos Sastre and Fränk Schleck, and go for a stage win. Even one day in the yellow jersey is always going to be a goal of mine. I’ve let go of the overall goal of winning the Tour de France. I realize at 35 that’s going to be difficult to do.
Q It has been said that you’re considering retiring when your contract with Team CSC expires after the 2007 season. What will determine whether or not you decide to keep competing?
A I’ve been talking that over with my wife, and I’m leaning toward the 2008 Olympics because 2004 was a fantastic experience. I want to experience the Olympic spirit all over again. If I can do it, that would be great. I’d like to qualify. I’m thinking this won’t be my last year. I’m not going to stop because someone says I’m too old. I’m going to stop when myself and my family feel it’s time to stop.
Q Floyd Landis’ 2006 Tour de France victory was overshadowed by his positive test for performance-enhancing drugs. Do you think this has become a tired subject in sports? How can the sport of cycling monitor this problem better?
A It is a very worn-out subject. It’s something that we as a society have to look at and reprioritize. This is a sport, and a lot of people have turned it into a business. If you don’t get up in the morning and compete in your sport of choice because you love to do it and [instead] do it for money or fame, you’re doing it for the wrong reasons. I think that society as a whole has put too much emphasis on winning. It’s just sad that when somebody tests positive, people aren’t even surprised anymore because so many people have done it in the past. At the same time, I think [cycling is] taking positive steps. The out-of-competition controls is a great idea as well as the in-competition controls. All the random testing that they’re doing, it’s going to make people believe in sports again. Ultimately the athlete has to pay the price.
Q You were on the Motorola team with Lance Armstrong in the mid-‘90s.
A Yeah, that was a long time ago, like another life.
Q Is there a specific experience that stands out when you think of Armstrong?
A The first day I met him, we were 17 years old. I was the big junior at that time, and he was a triathlete that came into our training camp at the last minute. We were doing intervals in Colorado Springs at the Olympic Training Center. We got done with, I think it was a 10-minute, full-gas interval, just the two of us. I pulled as hard as I could, and he pulled as hard as he could, and I was absolutely thanking the Lord when the interval was over. And Lance looked at me and was like, “Come on, let’s keep going! Keep going! Let’s go again! Let’s go again!” Right then and there I looked at him, and I thought to myself, “This is the strongest guy I’ve ever seen, and I hope there’s not many more like him or else I have no future in this sport.” Fifteen years later I’m still here, so there weren’t too many guys stronger than him around.
Q You’re writing a blog and helping develop content for the Athlete in You Web site. How did you get involved, and what’s it all about?
A I was riding in Reno, and the guys that started the site—both of them have ties to Reno—asked me if I was interested. I was drawn to it because it’s not the kind of Web site that’s like, “Let’s make money, that’s all that matters.” Fifty percent of the proceeds are redistributed in the form of scholarships, aid programs, and sponsorships of developmental programs. It’s like MySpace—athletes can post their bios and meet other athletes in their area. Or if they’re traveling they can find an athlete in that area so they’ll have someone to ride, swim, or run with. It’s just a neat idea.
Q Is the excessive traveling you do hard on your family life?
A Very much so. I want to give my family a stable, rooted life. It’s obviously what’s going to be the end of my career more than my legs or lungs. My wife is the glue. She deserves a medal for what she’s done to keep the family unit together.