T-Mobile manager Walter Godefroot on Saturday returned an unflattering verdict of Jan Ullrich's perfIn a revealing interview with procycling before stage seven in Chateaubriant, T-Mobile manager Walter Godefroot said that his team leader Jan Ullrich's 55-second deficit from Lance Armstrong was "too much at such an early stage of the race". "The team has ridden well all week, but Jan is further away from Lance Armstrong that we would like," Godefroot commented. "Losing 15 seconds in the prologue was bad for morale and sent out the wrong message. In the team time trial, we were unlucky with punctures and the weather conditions, but they were the same for everyone. It was only thanks to the new rules that we lost 40 seconds and not 1-19. Jan himself has often been poorly placed and perhaps lacks a bit of power compared to his rivals. Fortunately we are only one week in to the race. We'll see how the rest pans out. "Armstrong's good form isn't an unpleasant surprise for us," Godefroot continued. "All of the pre-Tour interviews and previews are always written as though there is no evolution in a Tour rider's form between the Tour of Switzerland or the Dauphin and the Tour. We knew that Lance would be at 100%." Ullrich's indifferent display in the first seven days of racing had already provoked a spate of mini-inquests on Sunday. Was a lingering cold responsible for the German's off-colour display in the prologue in Lige? Would Ullrich have fared better had he been wearing earphones? Presumably then directeur sportif Mario Kummer could have instructed the Kaiser that he was trailing by 10 seconds at the halfway mark, and that it may be time to take corrective action. Perhaps the T-Mobile domestiques' habit of toiling for Erik Zabel is just too ingrained? Or maybe T-Mobile should have opted for rear disc wheels in the team time trial just like the other 20 teams in the race? Many questions, no definitive answer. "We had a very offensive strategy all mapped out, but then [Alexandre] Vinokourov had to pull out through injury," Godefroot revealed. "Vino is a big loss and, without him, it becomes difficult for us. The mountains on this year's route were perfect for Vino. His injury strips us of a large percentage of our potential in the mountains. Unfortunately, c'est la vie." Godefroot went on to set the record straight about his relationship his former co-worker, now Ullrich's personal coach, Rudy Pevenage. To the suggestion that he, Pevenage and T-Mobile directeur sportif Mario Kummer were more Bermuda Triangle than holy trinity, Godefroot responded with calm authority. "Mario Kummer is in charge of the sporting side of things, and he and I work in close collaboration," Godefroot said. "The only concern is that Mario lacks Tour de France experience. We overcome that with a regular dialogue: he asks me what I think and I give my opinion. Rudy Pevenage is Jan's personal coach, in the same way that other coaches work independently with other riders. What relationship I have with Rudy really isn't relevant. Armstrong has a coach in America [Chris Carmichael]; Jan's, at least, is easily accessible. Everyone wants to know about Rudy and I because we used to work together. Our professional relationship broke down when I lost my trust in him, for reasons I don't want to go into." As of Sunday night, the thoughts of Kummer, Pevenage, Godefroot and, not least, Ullrich, will be cast forward to the first helping of true climbs on the 2004 Tour. They arrive on Wednesday and Thursday with back-to-back stages in the Massif Central. Godefroot doubts whether the double-header will leave any significant imprint on the general classification. "It depends on the opposition," he said on Saturday, hinting that we are unlikely to see T-Mobile on the offensive. Neither Ullrich nor Armstrong have been to reconnoitre the 14 classified climbs which arrive in the space of 48 hours on stages 10 and 11. Former Peace Race winner Olaf Ludwig, now a member of T-Mobile's management, drives the course on the morning of every stage and reports back to Kummer, a routine that he will continue in the Massif Central. Often likened to a furnace for the asphyxiating heat to which it can play host in high summer, the Massif Central is forecast to be unseasonably cool when it welcomes the peloton on Wednesday. "In any case," said Godefroot yesterday. "I don't buy this about the heat being Lance's Achillles heel. He has no weaknesses." A powerful vote of confidence indeed. for Godefroot's opposition.