PIC BY TDWSPORT.COM
Jan Ullrich's first appearance in the ProTour at the Tour of Catalonia has been overshadowed by the news that the German has separated from his partner of 11 years standing, Gaby Weiss. The news was broken in the German tabloid, Bild am Sontag, and led to Ullrich releasing a statement confirming the story on his website.
"I have separated from Gaby, who I have lived with for a long time," said Ullrich. "We have reached an equitable solution to our situation, with our priority quite naturally being the welfare of our daughter, Sarah. As this decision has been extremely hard to bear, we don't want to make any further comments on this. I am sure that my fans understand that this is a private matter and that it must remain so."
Although Ullrich did not give much more detail about the split, he did reveal that he will continue to live in their Swiss home on the shores of the Bodensee.
Ullrich is one of the main attractions in Catalonia, with his T-Mobile team among the favourites for success in the opening team time trial in the resort of Salou. The race also visits the Andorran ski resort of Arcalis, where Ullrich enjoyed two of his greatest moments on the bike in the 1997 Tour de France and the 1999 Vuelta.
Classics star Michele Bartoli, who retired at the end of last season, has been training with Ullrich in recent weeks and has reported that the German is in his best shape for years. Bartoli's assessment will come under severe scrutiny in Catalonia this week when Ullrich will be just one big name in a very strong field that also includes Iban Mayo, Alejandro Valverde, the resurgent Santiago Botero and defending champion Miguel Angel Martin Perdiguero.
Ullrich's T-Mobile team have announced that they have added two events to his pre-Tour programme - the GP Schwarzwald on June 4 and the GP Aargau on June 5.