Kloden now Jan's key lieutenant

Not much has been seen of Andreas Kloeden in the past three seasons, but he now has a key role to pl

Not much has been seen of Andreas Kloeden in the past three seasons, but he now has a key role to pl
Andreas Kloeden, Germany's national road champion, has emerged as one of the keys to the outcome of this year's Tour de France, at least on the basis of his performance in the tough 10th stage to Saint Flour. It looks like he will need to be one of Jan Ullrich's strongest supports in the mountains, with Alexandre Vinokourov watching the Tour at home on TV, Matthias Kessler out of the race with a broken rib and a punctured lung, and Santiago Botero struggling to find his best form. "I think my form is good," said the angular 29 year old. "I think I'm getting better from day to day. The most important stages for me are coming now - tomorrow is a very important stage and I hope I have good legs to do my work for Jan. "I have good morale and I'm wearing the German champion's jersey. The national road race was a heavy event in Germany and Jan helped me a lot. Now I want to return the favour." Not too long ago, in the spring of 2000, Kloeden had won Paris-Nice and the Tour of the Basque Country and was touted as the 'new Ullrich,' which is the German equivalent to being called the 'next Eddy Merckx.'. "Four years ago, things were going very well," he agreed, "but then I was sick, and I had some knee problems, back problems and I lost confidence. I've recovered and things are going much better now. I'm hoping for better results in the future but I'm here on the Tour only to work for Jan. Maybe that will lead to a good result for me but the most important thing is that Jan wins the Tour de France." Nearby, team boss Walter Godefroot was rueing the loss of Kessler, who was expected to be taken home to Germany later today or tomorrow. "If everything goes OK, I think he will be transported home tomorrow, but by ambulance. He can't fly because of his lung." More bad luck then for the T-Mobile team. "Yes, it's a shame but it won't change our tactics. We have other guys in good condition - Kloeden, Guerini, Botero." But had he been disappointed by Botero's performance on the stage to Saint Flour, when he had lost contact with the front of the race? "Maybe, but on the terrain that really suits him he has worked very hard. I think tomorrow and the day after tomorrow, we will see a Botero in form." Sounds good, but the question is, will it be enough to help Ullrich achieve his goal?
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