PIC BY TDWSPORT.COM
Jan Ullrich started this week's Tour of Switzerland still three kilos over his ideal racing weight of 72 kilos. Following his time trial victory at last month's Giro d'Italia, Ullrich spent his time training with T-Mobile team-mates Matthias Kessler and Andreas Klden, and the 1997 Tour de France winner is now aiming to shed his extra kilos in Switzerland before starting his challenge for a second Tour title next month.
He may well have lost some of that excess making a late attack on Monday's third stage of the race. The German went with 20km remaining, and most of the race's strong riders responded. Ullrich could not respond when the winning attack comprising Nick Nuyens, Koldo Gil, Linus Gerdemann and Jrg Jaksche, with Nuyens winning the stage and taking the race lead.
Meanwhile, Ullrich's young team-mate Bernhard Khl is still coming down to earth after his third place finish at the Dauphin Libr at the weekend. "I still can't believe it. The phone is ringing non-stop, everybody wants a word with me, to congratulate me - friends, colleagues, journalists," said the 23-year-old Austrian on his team's website.
After a better than expected time trial, Khl came to the fore in the mountains, starting with Mont Ventoux. "It's a climb that suits me because of the steep sections in the first kilometres. In the end I placed 19th or 20th. I got a lot of support from the team, so that I was able to save my legs for the decisive time when we hit the climb," he explained.
"The Alpine climbs were new and unfamiliar territory to me. My only previous experience of Izoard and Galibier was from following the Tour de France on TV. But, man, they are leg-breaking. No wonder they have been included again the Tour route for this year. I found the 'Queen Stage' over the Galibier especially hard, it took me a while to find my rhythm and for a time I feared my good GC placing was slipping away, but I started to feel stronger from kilometre to kilometre, and when I got the news from the team car that I had a realistic chance of moving up to third place, I started to grow wings. I battled every metre of the way and it paid off."
Khl says he still needs to work "across the board" on improving himself if he is to be a future contender in major tours. He aims to be in peak form during the Tour de France, but, of course, he won't be there this year supporting Ullrich. Instead he'll be aiming to win his national tour which runs concurrently. "It is the pinnacle of my season. I want to be in my best shape when I go to the start there. Maybe I can score my first stage win there. Success at my home race would mean an awful lot to me!"