I ain't never been away, says Bobby J

Inspired by the words of rapper LL Cool J, Bobby Julich finally achieved his place in the sun yester

Inspired by the words of rapper LL Cool J, Bobby Julich finally achieved his place in the sun yester
PIC COURTESY SAUNIER DUVAL Bobby Julich spoke on Sunday of his delight and disbelief at emulating some of the most revered names in cycling as a winner of Paris-Nice. then went on to describe how his return from the brink had been inspired by East Coast rapper LL Cool J. "In the words of a famous rap song: 'Don't call it a comeback, I ain't never been away,'" Julich told bemused French journalists in Nice on Sunday. With his 10-second victory over Spain's Alejandro Valverde, Julich had just sealed arguably the most prestigious win of his career and made history as the first leader of the inaugural UCI ProTour. He had also confirmed the resurrection of a career which - just five years after American rubbed shoulders with Marco Pantani and Jan Ullrich on the Tour de France podium - almost ground to an abrupt halt two years ago. "In the summer of 2003, I was effectively a retired rider for one week," Julich recalled last night. "That was when [CSC manager] Bjarne Riis called me. I thought, 'OK, I'll give this a shot, but if it's anything like the teams I have been in for the last four years I'll say, thanks Bjarne, but throw your contract in the bin.' "It didn't take me long to realise that I had found the team I had been looking for since 1998," Julich continued. "I walked into the first team meeting that autumn and my jaw dropped. I had finally found a team where I could be myself. I can remember a woman coming up to me to ask for my autograph. I pointed at Bjarne and said, 'Lady, this man has WON a Tour de France.' Bjarne faced me, put his finger on my chest and said, 'It's still in you Bobby'. "Nobody saw what sacrifices I made in those years when things were going badly. I was still doing the work and sometimes I felt so close. I just couldn't make the difference. My motto has always been 'Rest if you have to, but never quit.' After all the hard times I've been through I feel that I deserve the bit of luck I've had in this race. I don't want to think about the Tour, and whether I can be the man to challenge [Lance] Armstrong - just let me savour this for the moment." Julich's success yesterday was the realisation of an ambition which has burned within him since he took up residence in Nice with former Motorola team-mates Kevin Livingston and Frankie Andreu in 1997. The trio were among the founder members of what Julich jokingly described last night as the "Nice Mafia" - the cosmopolitan community of pros who live on the Cote d'Azur and regularly meet to train over climbs like the Col d'Eze, where Team CSC secured Julich's yellow jersey on Sunday. "We arrived in France in '97 not speaking a word of French. Kevin, Frankie and I used to have great times training around Nice, even though we never knew the names of any of the roads." Julich reminisced last night. It was hard to deny last night that Julich had earned his success, although CSC team-mate Jens Voigt often seemed the stronger man over the weekend. With Voigt, Julich was instrumental in Jorg Jacksche's Paris-Nice triumph 12 months ago. Julich had also been a member of the Telekom team which guided Alexandre Vinokourov to overall victory on the Promenade des Anglais in 2003. "Bobby deserves his success," said a magnanimous Voigt last night. "He worked for me a lot last year, so I was happy to work for him. What goes around comes around."
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