Jan Ullrich makes his first (and not too complimentary) comments about the Tour route and says he'sPICTURE BY TIM DE WAELE Although his perennial bogey man Lance Armstrong may not be around to complicate Jan Ullrich's challenge for a long overdue second Tour de France victory, the winner of the 1997 edition has declared himself to be not overly enamoured with the route of next year's race. Speaking to the German Tageszeitung newspaper, Ullrich said: "I don't like the fact there are less time trials." After an unusual 19-kilometre time trial on the opening day, Ullrich and other time trial specialists will have to wait until the penultimate's day's stage in St Etienne for a second individual test against the clock. The T-Mobile rider was happier though with the race's planned return to Germany. "Of course I appreciate that Karlsruhe and Pforzheim will feature on the race again," he said. Ullrich was apparently largely unconcerned about the much-discussed question of Armstrong's potential non-appearance. "It's all the same to me whether Armstrong comes or not. What really matters is winning the Tour, and if you want to win you have to ride faster than the rest," he said. T-Mobile manager Walter Godefroot, however, felt that Armstrong's recent comments amounted to no more than psychological point-scoring. "I'm not convinced that Lance Armstrong will miss the Tour in 2005. He's only saying things like that because right now he doesn't want to heap any pressure on himself," said Godefroot. Ullrich's personal coach, Rudy Pevenage, told Belgian daily La Dernire Heure that he was planning to see the German rider in the next few days to discuss his preparation for next year's objectives. "As in previous years he is going to spend the month of December in South Africa, and he will start his training there," said Pevenage. Pevenage spoke more freely about how Armstrong's possible absence might change next year's Tour. "If he doesn't come it will change everything. Firstly because there would no longer be a team that would control the race, or at least there wouldn't be at the start of the Tour because the pecking order would need to be decided," said Pevenage. "In addition, in the absence of the number one favourite the race would be more open. If Armstrong says in the new year that he is not going to start, at least five riders are going to be thinking that they can win the Tour. Jan would obviously have special status as a past winner, but I am sure that Vinokourov, Basso, Heras, perhaps Cunego and no doubt someone else I've forgotten would feel released. But I have to say that it is not a situation that would please Jan too much. I know that if he is to win the Tour again he would prefer to do so by beating Lance Armstrong."