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Bobby Julich Retires

Bobby Julich has officially announced his retirement from the sport, after 15 years as a professional. In his statement on his website, he said that he had lost the motivation necessary to compete at the top levels of the sport. "Now is the time to move on to the next phase of my life," he wrote.

Julich spend the last 5 years at team CSC-Saxo Bank, and Riis has left the door open for Julich to remain on the team staff. "He is a great sportsman, an intelligent young man, and a good team mate. He was an important role model for our young riders," said Riis of the American. "I would be happy if in the future, Bobby would remain with the team in a different role," concluded the Dane.

Bobby J's pro career almost didn't happen. A talented junior, he ranked among the top road racers in the United States. At age 21, he received his first pro contract offer from Gatorade, then a team focused on US races. Julich turned them down to ride a team directed by Mike Neel, whose sponsor withdrew at the last moment. Julich rode the 1993 season unattached and unsupported, driving himself from race to race. In a possibly apocryphal story from that season, he rode one major race with empty water bottles. His bottles had leaked on the way to the race. Whether or not that story actually happened, Julich had his share of hard luck that year. In 1994, the following season, his luck turned, and he scored a slot on the L.A. Sheriff's team. (Malcolm Elliot rode for the team that year also.) His results from that season caught the eye of Motorola, and in 1995, he signed on and began his European adventures. Julich counted Lance Armstrong, George Hincapie, and Andrea Peron among his team mates with Motorola.

Julich's first major result in Europe came in La Vuelta in 1996. He wore the KOM jersey for some ten days, and finished in the top ten, or thereabouts. Two years later, while riding for Cofidis, he finished third in the 1998 Tour de France. The doping scandals of that Tour earned it the title, Tour de Shame. Bobby Julich has at times seemed less proud of his podium finish at the Tour - at one point, it was missing altogether from his results list on his website - than some of his later results.

After 1998, Julich wandered into the wilderness of his career. In 1999, he returned to the Tour de France with Cofidis. His previous year's podium placement made him the talk of the press, and everywhere the expectation that he would become the next Greg Lemond dominated discussions. Those expectations ended on the eighth stage, a crono, when Julich crashed out the race. An effort to salvage his season at the Vuelta also ended in a crash, when two riders pulled off the road to exchange wheels. Julich was among several riders who crashed into them, ending his Vuelta. The following year, Julich transferred to Roger Legeay's Crédit Agricole, where he joined Jonathan Vaughters and Jens Voigt. The high point of his time with the French team came in the 2001 Tour, when the team won the team time trial.

By the end of 2003, Julich was close to retiring from the sport, after two unsuccessful seasons riding for Deutsche Telekom. Enter Bjarne Riis. In 2004, Julich joined Team CSC, and entered what he has often described as the best years of his career. At CSC, he found a team where he had reponsibility and freedom, and a role that suited him. A string of successes followed the transfer, including a bronze medal in the 2004 Olympic time trial and in 2005, wins at Paris-Nice and the Critérium International. Julich finished the 2005 season 8th in the UCI world rankings. Team CSC finished first overall.

The last few seasons have been quieter for Julich, as he has focused on playing a supporting role on the team. His own results have been sparse and bad luck dogged his last Tour appearance in 2006, when he crashed out in yet another crono. Still, behind the scenes by all accounts he has played a leading role on the team, so much so that Bjarne Riis has publicly declared that he hopes to keep Julich on the team staff for the future.

Together with George Hincapie, Julich is one of the last of a golden generation of American cyclists, cyclists who grew up with the legacy of Greg Lemond's Tour successes and amidst a thriving domestic racing scene. Their achievements are worth celebrating, as inexorably, inevitably, a new generation of talent emerges to take their place.

the always invaluable usenet archives contributed essential details for this story. grazie usenet people of days gone by.