Fine-tuning in cellar for Jan

Wednesday, June 29, 2005 11.00pm
While most of us probably store our junk and garden tools in the cellar, Jan Ullrich has a special c


It seems that Jan Ullrich has a secret weapon in the cellar of his Scherzigen home on the shores of Lake Constance in Switzerland that could give him a critical edge as he attempts to win the Tour de France for the second time. In between training expeditions from his home, Ullrich has been spending time in a three-metre-square hypobaric chamber built in his basement at a cost of 225,000 euros.

Chambers of this type enable athletes to recreate the atmospheric conditions found at high altitude and boost their red blood cell count in a totally legitimate way.

Ullrich's basement remodelling was carried out by Berlin-based company Low Oxygen Systems. Their founder, Volker Spiegel, told French news agency AFP that if Ullrich "is in good form for the Tour, he will certainly be able to take advantage of his simulated high-altitude preparation."

Spiegel explained: "We can now recreate atmospheric conditions that are found between 2000 and 4500 metres in absolutely any room." The oxygen content of the air in the plexiglass chambers can be reduced to as low as 13% from the 21% found at sea level.

Spiegel said that several other German athletes have taken advantage of the technology, including the national volleyball team. According to Spiegel, the Chinese swimming team have no less than six bedrooms at their Shanghai base adapted in this way so that athletes can effectively live and sleep at altitude.

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