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Bobby Julich didn't seem keen to dwell on his own performance in the first stage of the 2005 Tour de France as he skidded into the vicinity of the CSC team bus shortly before six o'clock this evening. Not that Julich had fared badly on the 19km route between Fromentine and the island of Noirmoutier off the Vende coast. In fact, Julich's 11th place finish, 1-08 down on winner David Zabriskie, placed him above no less than Jan Ullrich and also his CSC team leader Ivan Basso.
No, it was just that Julich was distracted. Distracted by the sight of the lanky, blushing figure of David Zabriskie trying his best to explain to a group of journalists the almost inexplicably brilliant ride which would later earn him the yellow jersey. Julich interrupted his team-mate mid-answer: "Holy s***, man! How fast did you go? No one's getting near you!" Just over an hour and an agonising 20 minutes watching Lance Armstrong later, Julich had been proved correct.
Julich later spoke at greater length about the man who some have called an oddball, others a comedian, but to Julich is simply "the future of American cycling".
"I think that we have just witnessed the birth of a real champion for time trials, whether that be in the Tour de France or the world championships," Julich said. "I don't think that anything will stand in his way. I haven't really seen any young American who has come close to winning the standard of races that Dave has won over the past couple of years. Right now, he is the future of American cycling. I'm just glad that he is on my team and that I'll be able to give him the benefit of my experience - my successes and failures - at least until they put me out to stud in a couple of years!"
Julich was then asked about Zabriskie's zany but understated sense of humour, which had already bemused and beguiled the media in CSC's pre-Tour press conference on Friday.
"Dave doesn't fit in, but that's the thing about CSC - none of us fit in, we fit together. We're all a little different, we're all a little bit special, we communicate really well and we have a really good time together. But Dave is the icing on the cake far as entertainment value is concerned. We've got one of the most serious people on the planet who goes by the name of Bjarne Riis running the show, so we need some comic relief from time to time.
"I think that Bjarne appreciates that too, even though there is a limit to how much of David's humour anyone can take! I think that some of Dave's humour hides his nerves; he's quite a nervous person. For him to start a time trial early like he did today and therefore avoid agonising over what he is going to do is great. He surprised everyone by winning a time trial in the Giro, but I'm kinda past being surprised by David Zabriskie."
As of this evening, many people, Lance Armstrong included, may also begin to expect the unexpected from the man who signs his name 'Dave Z'.
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