Ullrich: Postal better with Voigt

Jan Ullrich regrets the failure of his stage 15 break, as Bjarne Riis' tactics receive condemnation

Jan Ullrich regrets the failure of his stage 15 break, as Bjarne Riis' tactics receive condemnation
PICTURE BY TIM DE WAELE Jan Ullrich was disappointed but sanguine about his failed attempt to pull himself up the overall standings on yesterday's stage to Villard de Lans. The German attacked on the first-category Echarasson climb, but was reeled back in by a US Postal-CSC combine on the penultimate hill of the stage. "I said I would give all I could and I did that," said Ullrich at the finish. "I attacked on the hardest part of the stage but unfortunately it didn't work out because Armstrong has a very good team and with Jens Voigt it is even better." Ullrich's main regret, though, was in not being able to get across to Richard Virenque and Michael Rasmussen before they crossed the summit of the penultimate climb. If he had reached them, Ullrich felt, he could have worked well and with the Frenchman and perhaps stayed clear. Although Ullrich avoided making any direct criticism of the his former Telekom team-mate Bjarne Riis and the CSC team he now manages, Ullrich's coach, Rudy Pevenage, was not so discrete. "Five days from the end of the Tour it is not normal for a team to ride purely for second place," said Pevenage. "It was strange, I'd say if they wanted to win the race and Basso was good, then this was the day to go with Jan and chance everything," was the perspective of a T-Mobile spokesman. The man with the controversial plan, CSC boss Riis, explained why he had taken the step of ordering Voigt to drop back and help with the pursuit of Ullrich. "It's to be expected that not everyone understands our tactics, but we have a clear idea of what we are doing, which is to protect Basso" said the Dane. "Our team is quite weak now because we have got some injured riders. For that reason our strategy has to be less aggressive. "It wasn't worth us attacking with Ullrich because Armstrong had three team-mates with him. In those circumstances, it wasn't a good day for us to take a risk." Although Riis may have been wrong about the number of team-mates Armstrong had with him - only Landis and Azevedo were in the group when Ullrich attacked - his tactical approach was surprisingly supported by Ullrich's team boss, Walter Godefroot. "Tactically it was intelligent to stop Voigt and get him to ride in the chasing group," said Riis' former boss at Telekom. CSC climber Carlos Sastre denied repeated suggestions by the Spanish press that there is an accord between his team and US Postal. "If there was an understanding it was because it interested both of us, but we didn't work for Armstrong," he said on Spanish radio. "On this race everyone works for their own goals, and Ullrich is our rival. The podium is important for a team like ours, but it is not true that we aren't intending to attack the American. If we don't attack him it's simply because we can't." Sastre's team leader Basso also denied there was an alliance. "I wanted to win the stage and my team-mates were fantastic in the work they did for me," said the Italian. "But I found at the end that the American was too strong and in the sprint he showed he's more explosive than me."
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