Julich all set as Lance moves on

As Lance Armstrong heads back to Spain to escape the French cold, old rival Bobby Julich looks a goo

As Lance Armstrong heads back to Spain to escape the French cold, old rival Bobby Julich looks a goo
PIC BY TDWSPORT.COM The careers of Lance Armstrong and Bobby Julich have often run parallel. Today, in the windy hills of the Drome region, they diverged, as the six-time Tour winner flew back to Spain after a disappointing start to his European campaign, while Julich appeared to be in pole position to seize the overall lead of the 'course au soleil' in tomorrow's (Friday's) stage to Mont Faron. Unsurprisingly, given the frenzy that surrounds his every move, the European sports press is expected to leap on Armstrong's abandon as a telling sign that, at 33, the reign of the Texan may be over. But that conclusion surely is premature. With Armstrong recovering from his throat infection at home in Spain, CSC's Julich now has the chance to upstage his old rival. He made it into the telling break yesterday and, with three days of climbing to come, is now facing his best shot for a long time at big-time stage race success. Friday's short but very steep haul to the finish above Toulon has already proved to be a happy hunting ground for CSC; Jens Voigt won the Mont Faron finish in the recent Tour of the Mediterranean, and last year the team also took victory in the bizarre 'individual/team time trial' dreamt up by race organiser Lucien Aimar for the 2004 Tour of the Med. Ahead of the rejuvenated Julich, now 33, in first and second on the race classification, lie Fabian Cancellara, and Juan Antonio Flecha, both of Fassa Bortolo. But the CSC rider's aspirations for a shot at glory will be buoyed by the knowledge that he will be supported by three very willing and able team-mates - Jens Voigt, Vladimir Gusev and Kurt-Asle Arvesen. Meanwhile, as Julich readies himself for the showdown on the Faron, Armstrong will be hoping to recover his form in time for the Tour of Flanders. At the finish in Montlimar, the consensus was that bad form and ill health in March did not usually translate into good form in early April. The other universal, however, was that Armstrong, whatever his current state of fitness, would only take greater motivation from those who sought to write him off...

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