Bobby Julich is anxious to put a disastrous 1999 Tour behind him and place high in the GC

For those who dabble in numerology, Bobby Julichs prospects for this years Tour de France appear to be very good.

If recent history is any indicator the 28-year-old Julich, who grew up in Glenwood, Colo., and is riding for Frances Credit Agricole, could be due for a major breakaway in this even-numbered year, 2000.

Julich has shown a propensity for success and good fortune in even-numbered years throughout his career, alternating with disappointment and bad luck bordering on disaster in odd-numbered years.

Flash back to 1998 — Julich had set a goal of finishing in the top 10 in the Tour de France while racing for Frances Cofidis. Italian star Francesco Casagrande was the Cofidis team leaded going into the Tour, but crashed out of the race. Julich, who finished fourth in the prologue stage, took over the role as team leader.

Julich stayed out of trouble in the first week of the Tour, then at the first big test — a 58K time trial — he finished third and moved into a tie for second overall.

Julich battled with Marco Pantani and Jan Ullrich in the final mountain stages, and ended up finishing third overall, and, at that time, was the only American other than Greg LeMond to earn a spot on the podium in Paris at the end of the Tour de France.

Last year, 1999, was both a year to remember and one to forget for Julich.

He married his fiance Angela and bought a house near Philadelphia.

He began the 1999 season feeling he was behind in his preparation for the tour. He fractured his ankle early in the season, slowing his training even more.

In the 99 Tour de France, he was the top returning starter from the year before. He managed to stay out of trouble in the first week, but during the first time trial, he crashed on a high-speed corner, and fractured his elbow and ribs.

That was the end of Julichs 1999 Tour. He returned home to Philadelphia, and rode his indoor trainer with a cast on his arm to try to salvage the season. He started the Tour of Spain, but bad luck continued to follow him. He crashed again, this time sustaining a concussion, and his season was over.

It was at the Vuelta a Espagne (Tour of Spain) in even-numbered 1996 that Julich had a breakthrough ride, holding the mountain climbers jersey for 10 stages, and finishing ninth overall, the highest placing ever by an American in the Tour of Spain.

While battling for the mountain climbers jersey, Julich was body-checked by Russias Dimitri Konyshev, and went sprawling into a group of spectators. Julich got up, dusted himself off and won the next mountain sprint to hold the jersey for another day.

"That could have ended my Vuelta right there, said Julich in an interview with Outside Magazine. But I got back on the bike and didnt try to fight with Konyshev or make a big deal. I could tell right away the riders respected me more.

At that time (1996) Julich was riding for Motorola and had the good fortune of being tutored by Hennie Kuiper, who was one of cyclings greats during the late 1970s and early 1980s and finished second twice in the Tour de France.

Julich was one of Americas top promising junior riders when he rode with top American cyclist Lance Armstrong on the U.S. national team in the early 1990s.

After turning pro in 1992, Julich posted a strong finish (10th) at the Tour DuPont. But a year later — odd-numbered 1993 — Julich had the misfortune of being on a team without deep pockets. Julich found himself stranded without team sponsorship. He tried to race in Europe alone. Frustrated, he almost gave up cycling.

But in 1994, Julich, riding for the Chevrolet team, won three races in the United States and caught the eye of Motorola team manager Jim Ochowicz, who signed him. And once again he would rejoin his former U.S. national teammate Armstrong.

Earlier in 1996 Julich faced more adversity. At the Olympic Trials, his heart rate accelerated way past normal levels. At the time he didnt know what the problem was. There was even talk that Julichs cycling career might be over. But he consulted doctors at Duke University, who performed surgery on Julichs heart to fix what turned out to be an electrical problem. Julich was back on track.

Fast forward to 2000. Julich has moved to a new team, Frances Credit Agricole, where he is the team captain. He is now coached by veteran director Roger Legeay, a one-time coach to LeMond.

Remaining injury-free in the off season, Julich showed good early-season form and has maintained excellent pre-Tour preparation, finishing strongly in the Dauphine-Libere earlier this month and performing well in the Route du Sud.

Some of the climbs in the Dauphine-Libere are the same ones that are part of this years Tour de France.

For part of Stage 5 of the Dauphine-Libere, Julich was in a break group that had as much as a four-minute lead on the peloton. On the final climb of that day fellow American Tyler Hamilton and Lance Armstrong broke away to finish first and second.

Julich would finish 25th on the final G.C. of the Dauphine-Libere while fellow American and Credit Agricole teammate Jonathan Vaughters was fifth.

Julich and Vaughters have emerged as the team leaders for Credit Agricole. Britains Chris Boardman was not included on the team after suffering a sinus infection that forced him to drop out after the first stage of the Tour of Luxembourg and curtailed his performance at the Route du Sud. Boardman had an average time trial in that event.

Julich was 10th after the first day of Route du Sud and eighth after stage 3. He abandoned the final stage, conserving some of his energy for the Tour de France.

Julich and Vaughters are expected to give Credit Agricole a big boost in the mountains and could be serious challengers for the overall championship.

Julich has had many influences in his life, including his father Bob Julich, Sr., who introduced him to many outdoor sports. Bob Sr. began competing in triathlons, and took young Bobby on bike rides with him. He encouraged Bobby to take up triathlons as well, but Bobby wasnt as excited about running and swimming.

After seeing Greg LeMond in the Tour de France on television, Bobby Julich decided that cycling was the sport for him. That was 1984, an even-numbered year.

Julichs name is not often mentioned in the same breath as LeMond or Armstrong. But that may change.

It could be all in the numbers in 2000.


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