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Monday, July 3, 2006
We're all after one thing -- the maillot jaune

By Bobby Julich
Special to ESPN.com

Drink, drink, drink
Stage 2
• It was a very hot day, so you have to remember to drink and eat. When it's so hot, it's easy to dehydrate. And when it's so hot, you're not really hungry, but you have to force yourself to eat. My motto -- drink before you're thirsty, eat before you're hungry. Save your energy, keep hydrated or go into the red. I did not have this wisdom during my first few grand tours!

• I went through at least 10 water bottles Monday as the road temps got near 122 degrees.

In the sport of cycling, especially the Tour de France, the craziest things can happen.

My case in point: my good friend Thor Hushovd's finish Sunday, when he brushed into a spectator's sign and got a gash that needed stitches. He lost the yellow jersey, but won it back Monday. He is a Viking, a god of lightning, a horse!

This is the only race on the calendar where you have this many people and this many cameras and this many media types, so you get to see all of these made-for-TV moments at home. The more people you have on the sides of the roads, the more things can happen. The Tour is always a spectacle, especially in the sprints, so people lean over and try to get a closer look. I remember 1994, when a policeman stopped in the middle of the road on the finishing straightaway, tried to take a picture and caused one of the biggest crashes I've seen in a grand tour race.

One of the biggest draws to our sport is that fans can get so close to the action and it adds warmth to cycling, but sometimes I do wish fans would be more conscious of their actions because they can inadvertently end a Tour or season for a rider.

Crashes can also be just as bad. We had a pile-up Monday within the last three kilometers of the stage. I was on my front wheels, skidding across the road and running over one of the riders who crashed, but luckily, I didn't go down. I was one of the first riders to get around the crash. When you're going full speed and even hit the brakes once, it can be bad. I had to clip out of my pedal and do everything to avoid the crash. I was basically on auto-pilot/survival mode from there.

It's amazing how your survival instincts take over. Don't hit the brakes, just try to use the momentum to skirt to one side or the other. On Monday, it worked. I do a lot of work with a FitBall for my balance and a lot of mountain biking and cycle-cross in the offseason to help with those evasive maneuvers that can save you from injury. So, freaking out or freezing up is not an option!

But back to Thor's cut ... it also made me think of the "curse of the yellow jersey." Over the past seven years, it seems like the only guy who could wear the yellow jersey and not have any major problems was Lance Armstrong. Last year, my teammates David Zabriskie (crash) and Jens Voigt (fever) both wore yellow and both saw it taken away by freak occurrences.

This year, we'll likely know who Team CSC will ride for after the Stage 8 time trial. It's a special situation without Ivan Basso here. So many people have told me that this year's Tour is similar to 1998, when I took over as team leader from Francesco Casagrande for Cofidis. This year is a little different since we have quite a few riders on Team CSC who can take over, depending on the situation.

The team is on the same page and it's not an awkward situation at all. We've all been here before and we're all good friends. For me, I am saving my energy. The more effort you expend now, the less spring you'll have later. I'll be paying attention and saving my energy for the next few days, and then let it all hang out in the Stage 8 time trial. Whoever wins that time trial will decide who Team CSC rides for and who will have the yellow jersey. The time trial is my best chance to shine. If I'm good, I'm good, and the team will rally behind me, but it's nice to have options on the team.

The yellow jersey means so much to us all. People keep mentioning that I'm one of the few riders left in this year's Tour who has actually reached the final podium. But I've never worn the yellow jersey. Just to have it one day would be career-changing and career-fulfilling, that's how I've always looked at it. I've been dangerously close to the yellow for weeks and been in second or third for weeks, but I've never once got to touch that holy grail of cycling.

Until the day I hang up my bike, it will always be a dream and a focus and a goal.

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.