Julich, Team CSC clear first hurdle
SAINT-FLOUR, France – It was mission accomplished Wednesday for Bobby Julich and his Team CSC in the Tour de France.The 237 km stage presented riders with the first serious climbs of the race, and Julich, 32, a Glenwood Springs native, made a strong showing, finishing the grueling, six-hour ordeal with the lead pack in 18th place.More importantly, at least for now, he was there with CSC’s dedicated co-leaders, Italian Ivan Basso and Spaniard Carlos Sastre, who placed 13th and 14th, respectively. And Italian Michele Bartoli and German Jens Voigt arrived in a larger, second group seven seconds later, with Dane Jakob Piil finishing in a third group just 15 seconds back.”We’re satisfied with today,” said Team CSC manager Bjarne Riis. “Having six guys in the lead group says a lot about these guys.”The first major climb typically shuffles the deck on the Tour’s overall classification. It also provides a glimpse at who’s got the form to dig deep in the coming days, when the race hits the serious mountains. The next critical test comes Friday, when the route turns straight south to the Pyrenees for a ride up and over the famous, first-category Col d’Aspin and on to the finish at La Mongie. Then on Saturday comes another Pyrenean journey, the 205.5 km 13th stage to Plateau de Beille. Both stages were won last year by Lance Armstrong on his way to his fifth consecutive Tour title.If Julich is not at full strength, he will have his hands full helping Basso and Sastre on the steep roads of the Pyrenees. But if he’s feeling good, the American – a proven time-trialist, too – could wind up leading the team himself.”I hope to have some good sensations in the mountains, to get Carlos and Ivan up there and do something for ourselves,” Julich said. “The next part of the Tour de France is very important. This is when you get your morale and this is the part of the Tour that’s tailored to my style, more so than the last week of racing.”Basso, meanwhile, appears ready for the Pyrenees.”It was good to finally be in the mountains,” said Basso, whose goal is to win a stage in the mountains – and possibly even make it onto the final podium in Paris.Thursday’s relatively short, 164 km 11th stage is an up-and-down affair with plenty of surprises on the road to Figeac – perfect for another small breakaway. Look for Voigt and Piil to try to get away early on; and if they do not succeed, perhaps Bartoli, twice a winner of the World Cup, will have a go.
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In some ways, it’s hard to believe it’s been five years since Beaver Creek and Birds of Prey hosted the 2015 FIS Alpine World Championships. It feels like it’s been five years since March and the outbreak of COVID-19.