Riis: Jan's got it wrong

Bjarne Riis knows first-hand what Jan Ullrich can produce, but believes the German simply finds his

Bjarne Riis knows first-hand what Jan Ullrich can produce, but believes the German simply finds his
PICTURE BY TIM DE WAELE Why has Jan Ullrich once again failed to be a serious threat to Lance Armstrong? Why isn't he able to put his huge talent to more use? Though Team CSC manager Bjarne Riis has had plenty to do guiding his own, so far, very successful riders in the Tour, the Dane can't help wondering what's happening with his former team-mate Ullrich, who's disappointed hugely in the Pyrenees, writes Susanne Horsdal. "His enormous talent and physical ability is evident. He's unique. What causes speculation and sometimes tremendous concern is the way Jan administers his talent. Why isn't Jan in shape in the spring? Why is he - except for the last week of the Tour - constantly above his ideal weight? I find it hard to answer. It's simply beyond me," writes Riis in his latest Tour de France column in Danish paper BT. Riis explains that Ullrich had approached him before the start in Liege and asked him why he had been saying to German media, that he (Ullrich) was too heavy and lacked enough race preparation to be ready for the Tour, and that he was far from the form needed to be a threat to Lance Armstrong. "Because I mean it, and I think you know that I'm right," Riis had answered. "I wasn't out to hurt him or put him down. I was really just saying what most people think. Why does he find his form so late and why isn't it until the last moment that he's really sharp? Yesterday (on Friday's stage to La Mongie) I had my suppositions confirmed. On a day when we realised our own dreams, it was proven - to put it bluntly - that we've got it right and Jan's got it wrong. "Jan's problems were displayed on the climb up to La Mongie. He rides gears that are too big and suffocates on the accelerations, and he's too heavy to keep the right tempo. Both things have always been his problem. I must admit I don't know anything about his training programmes and how he plans his Tour. I can only see it from the outside, and it doesn't look impressive," writes Riis. Riis does not think Ullrich ought to prepare in the same way Armstrong does, admitting that very few people possess Armstrong's mental strength and physical ability. "But everyone should take the task seriously. I do believe that Jan does that, but it's as if too much is left to coincidence," writes Riis. The Danish team manager, who had Ullrich as a super domestique when he triumphed in the Tour in 1996 and the following year guided Ullrich to his - so far - only Tour victory, also finds it a shame that the cycling world see so little of Ullrich througout the year. "He's one the of the sport's biggest names, and he should show that also outside the Tour. He has had great results in other races before and it looks good for him. There's no reason to play 'Superman', as some of the Tour favourites have done more than a month before the last week of the Tour, but it would be nice to see a forward-looking and constant progression in Jan's form. You can have results in March and April and still peak in the Tour. The season is more than one month long, and so it should be for Ullrich. He's a fantastic rider when in shape. He ought to show that more often - for his own sake and for the sake of the sport," concludes Riis.
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