Local fans to get chance to visit with Olympian Julich | AspenTimes.com

Local fans to get chance to visit with Olympian Julich

Dennis Webb

Julich

Young bicycle champ Ethan Bell of Parachute was excited enough when he met the mother of Bobby Julich.Now, he will get the chance to speak with Julich himself, as the 1990 Glenwood Springs High School grad returns home with his wife and young daughter to visit with his family and his fans.”I’m really looking forward to it. It will be really exciting to meet a great hero like this, a great cyclist. It’s going to be real honor,” said Bell, who won the best all-around rider award in his age group in Colorado this season.Julich often returns to Glenwood Springs this time of year because his birthday is Nov. 18 and his mother, Glenwood resident Bernadette Julich, has a birthday a day later. But this year’s return will be special because Julich will give fans a rare chance to meet him and honor him in public.It will be all the more special because Julich, whose career had faltered following his third-place finish in the 1998 Tour de France, has come back and enjoyed two stellar seasons. Among other accomplishments, he took the bronze in the time trial in the 2004 Summer Olympics and became the first American to win the classic Paris-Nice bicycle race this year. He also posted other victories this year and finished fourth in the final individual time trial in the Tour de France in July.

Glenwood Springs attorney Walt Brown is organizing a public reception for Julich Thursday, Nov. 17. Brown got to know Julich when Julich was growing up in Glenwood Springs and spent time with his kids.”My house here on Grand [Avenue] was his pit stop for many years,” Brown said. “We became pretty close and used to sit out on the porch a lot. … We’d talk about him riding in the Tour de France and riding in the Olympics and other big races some day, and here he is. He’s not only done it, he’s done it in style.”Brown had never followed bicycle racing closely, so it was an eye-opener and a treat for him when he went to the Tour de France this summer and got to ride in Julich’s team bus. He also rode in a chase car as the tour ended on the Champs Elysees in Paris.It was then that Brown realized how big a following Julich has in a sport that is one of the world’s most popular, even though it receives less attention in the United States.”It was really neat having half a million people literally chanting his name, ‘Bobby, Bobby.'”

Brown returned home and convinced Buffalo Valley Inn owner Kurt Wigger to reserve the restaurant for a party for Julich. Wigger has been a fan and supporter of Julich’s since his days as a young racer – and also helped him out by hiring him for restaurant work.In conjunction with next week’s party, Garfield County commissioners have named Nov. 17 Bobby Julich Day.Brown said it’s important for the community to honor someone with Julich’s record as an athlete. But part of the reason there has been little opportunity to recognize Julich in public locally is because he’s not comfortable in the spotlight, Bernadette Julich said.”But as my daughter [Robin Julich] says, ‘Too bad,'” Bernadette Julich said. “I said, ‘As long as we don’t get blamed for this. We’re not involved with this, this was all Walt.'”Brown said hundreds may go to the function, including some fans from out of state. He has heard from a couple from Boston who have followed Julich’s career and plan to attend.

Besides meeting and greeting the public, Julich plans to attend a private get-together the previous evening with the Western Colorado Cycling Club. Although he will speak to the club as a whole, he will direct many of his comments toward young racers in its junior development program, said Bill Sommers of Silt, a club leader. Sommers said Julich serves as an example to young racers of someone from the area who rose up through the ranks and achieved success through hard work.Ethan Bell, 14, and his brother Trevor, 17, are part of a new generation of local bicycle racing hopefuls. Trevor finished fifth overall in his age group statewide based on race results this season. Ethan trained by riding 150-175 miles a week during his victorious year.Ethan said that when he met Julich’s mom, she gave him a postcard her son autographed. He said he has cheered for Julich during races such as the Tour de France, and it’s nice of a bicycling great who grew up in the area to agree to speak to young racers.”Those are the people that really inspire me,” Ethan said.Dennis Webb’s e-mail is dwebb@postindependent.com

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