By Brecht Decaluwé in Valkenburg
American Bobby Julich is going with the flow in this year's Tour de France. He's still in the upper portion of the general classification, so after Saturday's individual time trial, he could find himself in the top 5. We asked whether this was an objective when he prepared for the Tour de France.
"Now it is, but it wasn't an objective. I wasn't really thinking about the individual accomplishments here in the race, but now I think it will sort out the GC. I do like long time trials, but we'll have to wait and see. It's all about saving the energy and using it all on that one day, but I think everybody has the same plan. I didn't do any prologue training, because I was busy doing long climbs, preparing to work for Basso in the mountains; and without a team time trial, there was no real reason to do that.
"The last two days I felt good and obviously I hope to get better, and save as much energy for the time trial; without losing any time before that."
The Texas born Coloradoan finished third in 1998 and was also the proud wearer of the first white ProTour leader's jersey last year, after his win in Paris-Nice. The pressure must be mounting now, since team leader Basso is out of the race: "I'm 34 years old...honestly, I'm too old to feel that kind of pressure. If this kind of opportunity would've come my way a few years ago, it would've been super, but I'm too old to put that kind of pressure on myself."
In absence of Basso, maybe Julich will need to stand up and say to his teammates that he's the one to support. Is he ready to do this? "If I do a good time trial, and I'm in the front of the GC, absolutely. I did that last year in Paris-Nice and the Tour of Benelux. I know how to do it, but it's just a question of being able to do it; and after all, this is the Tour de France, not Paris-Nice or the Tour of Benelux," Julich said.
Operacion Puerto has had a big influence on this edition of the Tour de France, and we asked Julich how things have changed for him."I feel fine, nothing special, but obviously it's a different mentality, a different mindset, now that I have to adapt rather than coming here and have to be a worker. Team CSC still has a plan as we have some other bullets in the gun; I may be one them, but after the time trial it will be clear who the leader is."
Tuesday was the first stage with hilly roads, which gave an indication of who is fit and who isn't. "You can't really tell so much on climbs like this. There are guys that are punchers, and there are guys that are good in the long climbs. And obviously, the Cauberg is a climb for punchers," Julich concluded.