|ESPN.com: Tour de France 2007||[Print without images]|
I know there will be some who question whether those three riders should have been on the podium since Michael Rasmussen was pulled from the race earlier this week while leading the Tour. Well, the riders who weren't up there, weren't up there for a reason. We can't look at it that way. Contador, Evans and Leipheimer were all in the mix for most of the Tour and they all had great races. We saw Leipheimer only get stronger and stronger as the Tour went on -- we saw that in the time trial. Barring a situation like we had last year (Floyd Landis' Tour later being challenged by allegations), I think we saw the right riders on the podium. Contador is part of the sport's future. To be honest, I am more comfortable seeing Contador up there at age 24 than Rasmussen up there at 34. As for Cadel and Levi? This might be their last chance at the podium. As you get older, it's harder to reach that kind of success. Despite all of the news and allegations, I think we saw a real turning point in cycling at this year's Tour. We've had dark days, but this has to be where the wheel turns in our favor in making cycling better. I knew things had to get worse before they got better, especially after how the Puerto scandal was mishandled. Now? Riders have to know that if they try to do anything, they are going to get caught. Let's show the world that we did clean up our act. Other sports will have to look at the same issues and deal with them the way we have. We're doing this for the new generation. It's been almost 10 years since the Festina scandal in 1998. Maybe that dark time was the best thing to happen to cycling. Maybe it saved my generation of riders. We could have looked like gorillas on bikes now if that didn't happen! Because of Festina, maybe we saved some lives. I know our sport has changed in some ways; in others, it's changed little. What will the next 10 years be like? If we don't have to ride out there wearing gas masks because of the growing pollution ... I hope we have a popular sport, a sport everyone can believe in, a sport people can be sure is valid. We will still see fantastic performances and we'll see records broken. Competition brings out those things and I think that's what fans love most about sports. I am always going to be a fan of cycling. It's one of the most popular sports in the world, but one of the least popular in the United States. Over the next 10 years, I will continue to promote the sport in a positive way to help change that. I won't still have a number on my back, but I'll ride my bike until the day I die. It's like air to me. I'll be watching my two daughters grow up and maybe I'll take them out for a ride. Bobby Julich, a member of Team CSC, will be providing a 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 the Paris-Nice race in 2005.