Julich bronzed at Athens Games
ATHENS, Greece – Glenwood Springs native Bobby Julich captured the bronze medal in Wednesday’s road cycling time trial and countryman Tyler Hamilton won the gold, capping America’s finest day ever in Olympic road cycling.U.S. cycling won a total of three medals yesterday, with Dede Barry of Boulder taking silver in the women’s time trial.Julich, who graduated from Glenwood Springs High School in 1990, invoked a memory of the valley’s first Olympic medalist.”Alexi Grewal inspired me in 1984,” Julich said. “It’s almost been 20 years to the day that I got involved in cycling. And hopefully the medals that are up here today will do the same thing for other kids.”Hamilton’s gold marked the first for the United States in road cycling since Aspen’s Alexi Grewal won the road race in the 1984 Games in Los Angeles.”Ever since I was a little kid, I was in awe watching the Olympics and seeing a gold medalist on top of the podium, then hearing the national anthem,” said Hamilton of Marblehead, Mass. “Even as a kid, I’d get goose bumps. This is not just a victory for me or USA Cycling – it’s a victory for the entire United States of America.”No other nation took home more road medals from Athens than the United States, which touted its team as the deepest group of riders ever sent to an Olympics – even without Lance Armstrong, the six-time defending Tour de France champion who declined an invitation.Julich, Hamilton, Barry and Christine Thorburn – who was fourth in the women’s race, missing a medal by just 19.93 seconds – finally proved there’s more to U.S. cycling than Armstrong.”Lance has really catapulted cycling onto the U.S. sports scene,” Hamilton said. “We owe him a lot of credit for where we are today. The strength of these four riders today, it was incredible. It shows the U.S. has a lot of depth in cycling. We were just four, four of the many.”Hamilton finished the 29.8-mile men’s race in 57 minutes, 31.74 seconds, a time that beat defending gold medalist Viatcheslav Ekimov of Russia by 18.84 seconds.”Fantastic. Unbelievable. It hasn’t sunk it yet,” Hamilton said. “I gave it everything I had. I’ve been angry ever since crashing out of the Tour, and I took that anger out here today.”Hamilton’s year started with one goal: Winning the Tour de France. Yet he’s developed a penchant for getting hurt at all the wrong times in cycling’s premier race, riding virtually the whole 2003 event with a broken collarbone and dropping out in the 13th stage this year with an injured back.So he spent extra time on his time trial bike, with Athens his new goal.”It’s not a yellow jersey,” Hamilton said, his right hand tightly clutching the gold medal. “It’ll work.”Julich’s time was 57:58.19, 3.48 seconds better than Australia’s Michael Rogers in the battle for bronze. He rode with a broken right wrist, also suffered in the 13th stage of the Tour – but not diagnosed until a few days ago.He steadily got stronger as the race went along, snaking his way up the leader board with every half lap. And in the final 7.4-mile leg turning for home, he got to the line in 14:24, eight seconds faster than Rogers and more than enough to earn a spot at Hamilton’s left on the medal stand.”I wasn’t nervous,” Julich said. “USA Cycling put us up at a hotel about 300 meters from here, so the last two, three days had been really relaxed.”Still, Julich said he was surprised he was able to medal.”I knew this wasn’t my kind of course,” he said, sitting at a podium with Hamilton and Ekimov. “I prefer a track that is up and down with an average grade of 50 percent or higher. This was less than that and I knew I wouldn’t be a favorite. I felt I had good legs but just didn’t have any sensations about my time against the clock.”So when someone told me I won the bronze, my reaction was, ‘How is that possible?’ But I’m very happy. Ekkie [Ekimov] is my inspiration, and so is the other guy here.”Some USA Cycling officials privately felt that three medals at the entire Olympics may be a bit optimistic. But three in one day?”Not a bad day at all,” USA Cycling President Jim Ochowicz said. “We got it done.”Barry set the tone in the women’s race with her silver, matching the one claimed by Mari Holden in Sydney four years ago.Leontien Zijlaard-van Moorsel of the Netherlands – who suffered hip and shoulder injuries in a fall late in Sunday’s road race – successfully defended her gold medal by covering the 14.9-mile course in 31 minutes, 11.53 seconds. Barry was 24.09 seconds back; Switzerland’s Karin Thuerig won bronze.For Barry, the day was still perfect. With Greek blood running through her veins – her grandfather lived just north of Athens – and buoyed by a cheering section filled with Greek cousins, she became only the fourth American woman to win an Olympic road medal.She came to Athens this time last year, just to see the course and begin the dream. And the loss felt better than any win.”It’s not easy to win races. You’re a loser more than you are a winner,” Barry said, fingers twirling the ribbon latched onto her silver medal. “I’m pretty happy with this one.”A two-time Olympic alternate who retired in 2000 then returned in part because the lure of Athens was so strong, Barry crossed the finish line with the fastest time – yet knew eight other women were still on the course. Only van Moorsel could better her time.”I’m so happy,” said Barry, who plans to retire after this season so she and her husband, Canadian cyclist Michael Barry, can start a family. “Everything worked out. It’s such a great feeling.”The New York Times, The Boston Globe and other wire services contributed to this report.
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