Well, it was nice to finally get the race started after all of the pre-race stress and training.
I think all of us at Team CSC can't deny that we were affected by what's happened over the past few days with our teammate Ivan Basso.
It is still kind of a difficult situation for us to admit that he's not here. You keep expecting him to pop up here and smile like he always does. We did not have any direct contact with him, but I believe my teammate Giovanni Lombardi talked with him. We heard that Basso left for a training run at 7 a.m. in the morning and ran into about 30 journalists who were camped outside his house. He wound up doing a 300-km run [about 186 miles]. He likely needed to get out some frustration and that distance is about 7-8 hours on the bike! He's dealing with this in a positive way. He assured us he has nothing to hide, he's dealing with the situation in the right way and continues to be the professional I've known him to be in the 2 ½ years I've known him.
Maybe all of the distractions showed some in our performance Saturday because the last few days of our training was a little bit restricted, jeopardized.
But personally, since I am not a time-trial specialist like my teammate David Zabriskie [who finished third overall in the opening prologue] and my training prepares me for working up front on the medium-to-high mountain stages, I finished where I thought I would today [29th overall]. Saturday's prologue win by Thor Hushovd was well deserved. He's a good friend and the future of European cycling.
Saturday's course was a typical prologue course, having some turns and straight-aways. Many of my teammates, like David, have trained specifically for the time trials: 8-to10-minute intervals on a time-trial bike [they are less mobile than race bikes] about a week and a half before the race starts. I spent that time doing long-time training rides instead of those intensive rides that prepare you for going full gas in a prologue time trial.
Basically, the time trials require a very intense effort, much like the last 5 kilometers of a race where you're breaking away on your own. It takes a lot of concentration. You have to judge your efforts and not go too hard, too fast. Sometimes, you can overthink yourself and the course, and you finish the race feeling too fresh. You need to do the time trial in progression so that in the last 500 meters you're going the maximum and you're not saying to yourself, "I could have gone faster," when you cross the line.
You can lose time quickly in the trial if you make the smallest mistake. Floyd Landis missing his start time by a few seconds on Saturday was one of those cycling oddities. That's why one of the first things I do before a trial is visit the venue and go to the start house. I get the official time and put it on my watch. I can gauge my warm-up and prep time off of the official start time, so I'll be near the start house about 4-6 minutes before I go. With Floyd on Saturday, I know it seems like and impossibility at our level for something like that to happen. But with all of the stress, everyone bee-bopping around, fans asking for autographs and checking in your bike with UCI, things like that can happen. Luckily, he only lost a few seconds and had a great time trial to boot.
I used to be nervous before I did my first grand tour race. I couldn't come to grips with the fact that I could do this, because I thought it was going to be impossible. When I was watching it on TV or when I was a bike racer, I used to think there was no way I could do a race that was this long and this hard.
But it's amazing how you and your body and your mind and your psyche adapt, just getting into a rhythm and doing what you do. It's difficult to be away from your family for such a long time, but the days just start clicking away. My wife and daughter will come over later in the Tour. I don't know how many more of these I'll be doing, so I don't want them to miss it!
Bobby Julich, a member of Team CSC, will be providing an exclusive diary for ESPN.com throughout the Tour de France. The American has been a professional cyclist since 1992. He finished third overall in the 1998 Tour de France and won last year's Paris-Nice race.