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There has been much talk in recent days of T-Mobile's three-pronged attack, but last year's Tour runner-up Andreas Klden has knocked it into touch, claiming on the team's website that he and Alexandre Vinokourov are no more than super-domestiques who will work for Jan Ullrich.
"I am going to the Tour to support Jan," Klden responded when asked what his role is this year. "That means that, together with Alexander Vinokourov and Giuseppe Guerini, I will be giving everything to stay at Jan's side in the mountains as long as possible. We all share one massive common objective: to win the Tour. Everything else plays second fiddle to that objective. If Jan is healthy and at full strength, then he is certainly the strongest among us, that's why I am putting myself at his disposal and the disposal of the team and sacrificing my own personal ambitions."
Klden maintains that everything beyond the yellow jersey is of very much secondary importance, including his own prospects. "The yellow jersey takes priority. After that, wherever I land on GC is secondary."
He also played down talk of an internal T-Mobile duel between Ullrich and Vinokourov, saying: "We have always said that we all unite behind the strongest rider. Jan is the rider with the most potential and the one among us with the best chance of winning the Tour. That goes for 'Vino' also. He is totally loyal. But should it turn out that another rider is stronger, then we will obviously ride for him. In that case, Jan isn't going to insist that he continues as captain, or else threaten to take his ball home with him. That's also how it worked out last year."
Klden's own form has been decidedly suspect this season, but the German believes he is now "bang on track. It didn't all go to plan in the earlier part of the season, the altitude training on Tenerife didn't work out as I'd hoped. But since the Dauphin Libr in June I have reached 90-95 per cent of my best form and I believe I am going to the Tour approaching my top shape. I will build up to my peak during the first Tour week."
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