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Team T-Mobile directeur sportif Mario Kummer and team doctor Lothar Heinrich have expressed their satisfaction with Jan Ullrich's TTT performance on Tuesday, although Heinrich admitted this morning that 'Der Kaiser' is still around two kilograms over his ideal weight.
Regular procycling contributor Heinrich admitted that Ullrich currently tips the scales at "between 75 and 76 kilos". This may be one kilogram less than at the same stage last year, but it compares unflatteringly with the 71 kilos the German apparently weighed when he won the Tour in 1997.
Heinrich, though, is not concerned. "There's nothing we can do about it now and, anyway, Jan usually loses a lot of weight at the Tour, more than other riders," Heinrich revealed. "Yesterday his performance was excellent. We had a power meter on Matthias Kessler's bike that gave us pretty accurate data on Jan's performance because Matthias's position in the formation yesterday was behind Jan. We know that Matthias was pushing an average of around 550 watts, above his anaerobic threshold, and that was in Jan's slipstream. Jan himself would have been pushing even more. That's an outstanding figure."
Reflecting on Ullrich's indifferent showing in Saturday's time trial in Noirmoutier, Heinrich suggested that the German's crash in training on Friday may have affected him. "Physically he seemed OK: there was no shock, no broken bones, no stiffness the following morning, just some cuts," Heinrich affirmed. "I think that what perhaps affected Jan most was the realisation of how serious the crash could have been. That, when combined with the stress of mentally preparing for the following day, might have given him problems. Fortunately, now, he has completely recovered."
Kummer agreed with Heinrich that Ullrich was the driving force behind a fine T-Mobile ride to finish third on Tuesday. "Jan is our team leader and our inspiration on the road," said the T-Mobile chief. Heinrich claimed that the 1997 Tour winner was "by far the strongest in the team yesterday".
Ullrich may remain T-Mobile and Kummer's talisman, but Heinrich was also hugely encouraged by both Alexandre Vinkourov and Andreas Klden's contribution yesterday. "Vino is the consummate professional," said Heinrich. "He and I have worked very closely this year on his climbing and I'm very confident that he won't have the 'off-day' which has cost him in the Tour in the past. He is carrying three kilos less weight than when he came third in 2003, which means that he'll putting less stress on his body than in the past. That, in turn, will help him to recover and hopefully to avoid suffering a crisis in the mountains. Usually there is a trade-off when a rider loses weight, but our tests indicate that Vino has lost none of his power."
Asked about the prospect of Vinokourov testing Lance Armstrong's defences when the race picks its may through the Vosges mountains on Saturday and Sunday, Kummer wouldn't be drawn. "Contrary to what some people seem to think, Armstrong doesn't have a God-given right to win this race," was Kummer's parting shot.
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