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A Fred’s Eye View: Know your Bobby J

A couple of hours before hearing that Bobby Julich had won this year’s Paris Nice, I happened to be sifting through my unorganized collection of VeloNews back issues. I stumbled on a rare find: the 1999 official Tour de France guide –a handy reader for the American cycling fan. The 82-page glossy mag’ came complete the usual guide guts –stage maps, tons of photos of now-dated bikes and gear, a ton of photos of Marco Pantani, and mini-profiles of the Americans who would ride the Tour, including now-retired big guns Frankie Andreu, Kevin Livingston, and Jonathan Vaughters (note, Vaughters was

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By Fred Dreier

A couple of hours before hearing that Bobby Julich had won this year’s Paris Nice, I happened to be sifting through my unorganized collection of VeloNews back issues. I stumbled on a rare find: the 1999 official Tour de France guide –a handy reader for the American cycling fan.

The 82-page glossy mag’ came complete the usual guide guts –stage maps, tons of photos of now-dated bikes and gear, a ton of photos of Marco Pantani, and mini-profiles of the Americans who would ride the Tour, including now-retired big guns Frankie Andreu, Kevin Livingston, and Jonathan Vaughters (note, Vaughters was labeled as being “on the way up”).

All in all, a pretty good relic of the pre-Lance days.

I couldn’t help but do a double-take at the cover, however. Gracing the front was a smallish-sized photo of Lance, totally dominated by the foreground face-shot of a youngish, smiling Bobby J.

Bobby looks pretty stoked in this photo from 1999. He had every right to be, too. The year before he had earned a win at the 1998 Criterium International and his third place finish at that year’s Tour de France made him America’s boy for the 1999 Tour. He had plenty to smile about.

Lance, meanwhile, was still the stoic survivor who had earned respect just for the fact that he had beat cancer and was back on the bike. The expectations weren’t as high for the Texan, were they? Even Armstrong said all he hoped for was maybe a “top-five or 10, I don’t know…”

But Bobby was our go-to guy. Bobby was there to deliver.

Well, we all know what happened next: Lance delivered. Big time. Again, and again and again and again and, yes, again. Bobby crashed out on a bad turn in the time trial at Metz that year. He went on to ride as a domestique on three different teams for a bunch of European dudes whose names most Americans can barely pronounce (How does one properly say Jörg Jaksche?).

Bobby’s performances over this past year convinced most of us that he is back to form and means business. The Olympic bronze medal was all it took to sell this writer. Still, most of us still are wondering if he can ever regain the Tour contender status from ‘98.

Of course, Bobby will probably again ride support for Ivan Basso at this year’s Tour, but who knows, with his win at Paris-Nice in the bank, there’s no telling what the guy is capable of. If he can fend off Alejandro Valverde on the Col d’Eze, he might just have a fighting chance against Klöden or Ullrich on the Madeleine. And, with Tyler Hamilton’s Tour prospects looking bleak, the door is wide open for Bobby to become America’s fan-favorite dark horse.

If that happens, then you, my friend, had better be up on your Bobby Julich info. For just as Hamilton’s and Lance’s personal stories eventually became legend and lore, the same could happen for Bobby this year. And I would hate for you to find yourself without some trusty BJ info. How else are you going to impress your buddies come Tour time?So, without further ado, here’s a little Bobby Julich history, courtesy of the best and most up-to-date and trusted Bobby Julich source: www.BobbyJulich.com.

Bobby was born to Bob and Bernadette Julich in Corpus Christi, Texas, on November 18, 1971. The family moved to Glenwood Springs, Colorado, where, at the age of 12, Bobby first started racing on his bike after watching Aspen, Colorado, resident Alexi Grewal win the road race at the 1984 Olympics in Los Angeles.It didn’t take long for Bobby to show his talent for racing bikes. In 1985 he won his first race, claiming his age-group title at the Red Zinger Mini Classic stage race in Boulder, Colorado at the age of 14. In 1987 he was named on the National Junior road team after winning the Junior National Race Championship the same year. He won the Tour de L’Abitibi, a prestigious junior stage race in Canada in 1988 and 1989, and also competed in the Junior World Championships in Moscow. In 1990 he claimed the Junior National cyclo-cross title.In 1991 Bobby raced in the Tour DuPont and won the best new rider award on his way to finishing fifth. He seemed a sure bet for the 1992 Olympic team, but after getting beaten by Tim Peddie at the trials, had to settle for an alternate position on the team that included Lance Armstrong.Bobby went pro full time in 1993, however his first team, Rossin, lost sponsorship just before the season, and he considered quitting, but instead raced as a solo competitor, piling up debt in traveling and race fees. At that year’s USPRO race, won by Armstrong, Bobby was one of the final racers to hang with Lance through his attack up Manayunk.Bobby raced with the Chevrolet team for a season and eventually signed with Motorola, racing in Europe alongside Lance and George Hincapie. But in 1996 Julich was almost forced out of bike racing by an irregular heartbeat, caused by Re-entrant Supraventricular Tachycardia (RSVT). (If you want to learn more about RSVT, check out www.BobbyJulich.com.The disorder forced him out of the 1996 Olympic trials, and forced Bobby to undergo heart surgery. Amazingly, he was able to bounce back and race the Vuelta a España, at which he placed ninth, the highest by an American.After Motorola dropped it’s team, Bobby joined Cofidis in 1997, and the team put him on their Tour de France team. In his first Tour, Bobby placed 17th.For the 1998 Tour Bobby expected to ride for Cofidis team star Francesco Casagrande, but after Julich placed fourth in the Prologue and Casagrande crashed out, the American found himself in the leader’s position. Despite the Festina doping scandal, which dominated the Tour news that year, Bobby fought it out with Marco Pantania and Jan Ulrich, eventually finishing third overall and having the honor of being the only pre-Lance American, besides Greg LeMond, to stand on a Tour de France podium.Things seemed to be going well for the American, and Bobby married his fiancé Angela in 1999. But Julich fractured his ankle leading up to the Tour, and broke his wrist and several ribs in a crash during the Tour’s first individual time trial. He attempted to recover for the Vuelta, but crashed out with a concussion.In 2000 he signed with the Crédit Agricole team, and placed second in the Tour of the Mediterranean. However he finished a disappointing 48th at the Tour de France. The next year he finished a disspointing18th.Bobby took a pay cut and signed with the Telekom team for 2002, and rode the Tour finishing 37th. He did not ride the Tour in 2003, but finished 95th in the Vuelta.

We all know what happened next: Julich signed with Bjarne Riis’ CSC team for 2004–a move that saved and revitalized his career. 2004 saw him attacking up the Manayunk wall at the USPRO (he finished 34th), winning a bronze at the Olympics, and all-in-all having the season of his life. Now, with this latest victory under his belt, who knows what’s in store for Bobby in 2005? You can bet that if he gets a chance at the Tour, Bobby Julich could just find himself grinning on the covers the mainstream American press, although I wouldn’t bet on seeing his mug dominating the photo of Lance again. That, my friend, is a collector’s item.