By Shane Stokes
Bobby Julich’s excellent win in last week’s Eneco Tour of the Benelux saw him jump up the ProTour rankings to fourth. The American’s victory was the second such win in the series this year, following on from his Paris-Nice triumph in March, and he is one of the few who can realistically still entertain thoughts of beating Danilo Di Luca for the ProTour title.
But although Julich is heading to the Deutschland Tour (Tour of Germany) with good legs and the ambition of doing well, he remains uncommitted to challenging the Italian for the overall win. It’s been a long season for the Team CSC rider and the final ProTour event, the Tour of Lombardy, seems a long way away.
"To be honest, I'm not really worried about that [the ProTour]," he told Cyclingnews yesterday. "I know it is nice having points and all, but Di Luca got so many points early on, then took off two months of racing. Now he’s racing again in events that suit him and going all out to pick up points in the one-day races like tomorrow, in San Sebastian, like Zurich, like Lombardy. I don't think he is really catchable."
As things currently stand, Di Luca is 54 points clear of Julich. Lance Armstrong is second in the rankings, 45 points off the Italian, but ended his career last month in Paris. Alexandre Vinokourov is three points further back in third but, like Julich, will be trying to keep things going after the Tour and may also opt for an early end to the season. He could have picked up points in the Clasica San Sebastian and the Tour of Germany but pulled out of the former due to a cold. It remains to be seen if he will be at full strength this week.
Although Julich thinks the overall ProTour title may be beyond him, he is still fired up by the chance of more success. "I am going to the Tour of Germany to do well," he said. " My legs feel very, very good. I'm have actually been starting to get a little bit of a cold since the time trial in Benelux: in the past couple of days it has been kind of bugging me a little bit, with stuffed-up sinuses and all that. But as long as I keep my health, I think I can do well at the Tour of Germany."
"Beyond that, to battle for the overall of the ProTour means I have to race all the way to the Tour of Lombardy. That is in the middle of October and I have been racing at training camps since, basically, January. I am happy with what I already have in the pot but, that said, I think I owe to myself to roll it until the wheels fall off because there were for five years where I didn't get any results, as much as I tried."
Julich says that he will reassess things after the German stage race. "After that, I have basically two weeks where I will be backing off. I am going to take a week totally off the bike and determine then if I am able to recover a little bit, then do the Tour of Poland and the World's, or if am just clapped-out. Either way, I have had a successful season. But I would really like to give it a nudge in the World Championship Time Trial this year."
A full Bobby Julich interview will follow on Cyclingnews in the next couple of days.