Julich goes down, out at Tour de France | AspenTimes.com

Julich goes down, out at Tour de France

Dale Shrull
Glenwood Springs correspondent

American cyclist Bobby Julich, foreground left, accepts a bottle from teammate Giovanni Lombardi during the 4th stage of the Tour de France. Julich is out after a crash in the 7th stage on Saturday. (Peter Dejong/AP)

Bernadette Julich didn’t cry at first.

She watched the TV in disbelief as her 34-year-old son, Bobby Julich, crashed in the seventh stage of the Tour de France.

In one slip, dreams of Tour de France glory came crashing down, too.

What started out with great promise and excitement ended in a French hospital for Bobby Julich.

What was supposed to be a great Saturday turned as gloomy as the rainy weather outside for the 1990 Glenwood Springs High School graduate’s local supporters.

“I just got off the phone with Bobby,” Bernadette said at 11 a.m. Saturday from her Glenwood Springs home. “He injured his right wrist. Everything right now is an open wound. We’re not sure if it’s broken or not.”

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Surgery was scheduled.

Bernadette’s tears didn’t come until she heard her son’s voice and the pain of disappointment.

“It was great to hear his voice, but this made me cry – he said, ‘Mom, I’m sorry.’ I just couldn’t believe it. I said, ‘Are you crazy – what do you have to be sorry for?'”

The 32-mile time trial was what Bobby Julich had been waiting for.

But the day ended quick. Julich, who won an Olympic bronze medal in the 2004 time-trial event, lost control of his bicycle on a curve early in the race, sending him crashing hard into the pavement. Although he braced his fall with the left hand, it was his right wrist that was injured.

Julich’s sudden departure is just another odd chapter in the 2006 Tour. It started when several riders were expelled from the race due to doping allegations. One rider was Julich’s teammate and Tour favorite Ivan Basso of Italy. The race became wide open after that, and Julich, a strong time trialer and climber, was expected to be a possible contender in the overall standings.

This was Julich’s ninth Tour de France and the second one that ended with a crash. In 1999, the year after he placed third (he’s one of only three Americans to ever make the podium at the Tour), he also crashed during a time trial. That time, he fell during a descent, fracturing his left elbow and breaking two ribs.

Early Saturday morning, Bernadette hosted a small gathering for breakfast. On the menu were bacon, eggs, excitement and hope.

“I couldn’t watch, so I was making breakfast. You just hold your breath, and somebody can tell me when he’s finished.”

Then she walked around the corner and saw her son on the ground.

“It was a real heart-stopper.

“All I could think of was, ‘No, no, this can’t be happening. Not again, not again.’ This was going to be his day, we all knew it.”

The Tour was over for Julich. No mountains, no stage wins, no yellow jersey. All that’s left is next year.

For Bernadette, the Tour is basically over, too. Having a son as a world class cyclist has made her a cycling expert of sorts, but without Bobby, there’s no reason to watch.

“That’s the end of this year, I can stop the (video) tape machine,” she said with a bit of a laugh. “The scrapbook won’t be as big as it was last year.”

In an e-mail interview with the Glenwood Springs Post Independent prior to the start of the Tour, when asked for one word to sum up his career, Bobby Julich picked “undulating.”

Saturday was another low point to go with the highs of an undulating career.

In his Tour Diary he’s writing for ESPN.com, Julich was confident coming into the time trial, writing in Friday’s entry: “I expect to see a lot more Americans dominate the top 10 and I hope to top that list. … If I can have a day like I hope to have, I’ll be in contention at the Tour.”

Julich had the roughest day of the Americans, but only Floyd Landis emerged as a contender for the U.S. after Stage 7. He placed second in the time trial.

David Zabriskie placed 13th 1:57 back, George Hincapie was 24th 2:42 back, Christian Vandevelde was 3:14 behind in 30th, and possibly the most shocking finish was Levi Leipheimer’s 96th place, 6:06 off the winner’s time. He was expected to be one of the contenders for a podium finish.

In the most intriguing and wide-open Tour in recent memory, the race to replace Armstrong continues to be filled with shock waves.

Julich’s Stage 7 spill was just another bump in this strange 2006 Tour.

Kind of like Julich’s career – rarely a smooth ride. In other words – “undulating.”

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