Time trial is my chance to make a mark
|What's really going on in the peloton?|
There is a lot of tension in the first week of the Tour de France. Each team has 30 riders and only nine are chosen for the sport's biggest race. When you throw 178 men together, there's a lot of testosterone flying around and tempers do flare in the peloton. This is the first time in a while that we haven't seen a breakaway pack last to the finish line. But we all know there is a slim-to-none chance the riders can succeed in a breakaway like that. The peloton as a whole decides whether or not the breakaway will win it.
Within the peloton, there's a lot of jockeying for position. Riders grow more tired and there can be shorter tempers; in fact, there was a bit of yelling going on Friday in the final sprint. Sometimes, a rider can cut you off, and you yell out in a desperate "thank-god-I-didn't-crash" kind of way. You want to stay away from that as much as possible, but riders usually apologize after they calm down. Like it or not, we're all together for next couple of weeks, so you don't want to hold a grudge out there.
As I head into Saturday's time trial, I am not really feeling any pressure. Everyone has kind of forgotten about me, which is actually a good thing.
I've had a good first week. I've finished in the field sprints, I've had no crashes or injuries and I'm heading into a stage that brings out my strength as a rider -- the individual time trial. The race of truth beckons!
As soon as you roll off the start ramp, it's you against yourself for 52 kilometers. That's why I've always enjoyed the time trial. There's no one out there to motivate you but yourself, it's you who decides how hard you can go and how hard you can push your body. I'm feeling confident going into the time trial because I've been here before. It's a natural fit for me; I've always worked at it.
My pre-stage plan will also be important. For me, it's about as much relaxation as possible. Relax, think positive, go to bed early. I elected not to go see the time-trial course Friday night, so I didn't have the pressure of having it all on my mind. In the morning, I'll have a little breakfast, drive the first 15 kilometers of the course, then ride the rest of it. Riding the course is the only way to get a true taste of what it will be like at race time. If it was up to me, I'd like to ride the whole course, but there might not be time.
Once we get closer to the start, I'll have a light lunch (pasta is always a really good pre-race meal). I'll stay away from anything acidic, like vegetables and fruits. I won't do a big warm-up because of the longer distance of the time trial. I'll try to find a place to relax, stay calm.
If you have pressure going into a time trial, you can change your habits and your pacing. And pacing will be important Saturday. There's no use jumping off the ramp like it's a one-kilometer sprint. I've always believed that if you get out of your saddle at the end of a longer time trial, you haven't given it all you have. That's maybe why I rarely have the energy to stand up in the pedals at the end of a trial because I've already given every ounce I have before that.
There are going to be another 25-30 riders who are going to give the same 100-percent effort, that are going for the stage win and the yellow jersey. I expect to see a lot more Americans dominate the top 10 and I hope to top that list. I am definitely not going to call my shot here (a la Babe Ruth), but if I can have a day like I hope to have, I'll be in contention at the Tour.
Then, there will be a little pressure.
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.