By Shane Stokes
Eneco Tour of Benelux winner Bobby Julich will continue for at least two more years after signing a new contract with Team CSC. The 33 year-old American transferred to the team from Telekom at the end of 2003, agreeing to ride with them for one season. A strong display last year saw Bjarne Riis offer him a contract for 2005 and 2006, but improving financial circumstances in the team, plus Julich's good rides this year, led the 1996 Tour de France winner to come up with a brand new offer.
"I did have a contract for next year, but Bjarne has since decided to open up the contract and basically make a new one for two more seasons," Julich revealed to Cyclingnews. "It's rewarding me for sticking with him when he was having money problems, and also for doing so well."
Had money been his sole motivation, Julich could probably have gone looking for a higher salary after his Olympic bronze medal and comeback 2004 season. However, he felt a strong sense of loyalty to Riis and Team CSC and chose to stay within the fold. This has now paid off. "I think I definitely have made sacrifices in relation to the results I have been getting, so it's great to get this deal," he said.
Riis had been chasing a bigger budget for some time and is now in a much stronger financial position. Ivan Basso's clear potential as a future Tour de France winner plus the excellent form displayed by Julich, Jens Voigt and the rest of the boys in red, white and black this year increased his bargaining power and, during the Tour, it was announced that the Computer Sciences Corporation would be sponsoring the team until 2009. With more money secured, the squad were in a position to sign Basso for four more years and also make the improved offer to Julich.
Following Saturday's Clasica San Sebastian, Team CSC has taken over from Phonak at the top of the ProTour team rankings. They now lead the Swiss team by one point. Julich is fourth overall in the individual classification heading into the Deutschland Tour today.