D-Tour: ‘Jan-Watch’ Day 7

Jan Ullrich's Deutschland Tour went far better than that of his ageing team-mate Erik Zabel, who was

Jan Ullrich’s Deutschland Tour went far better than that of his ageing team-mate Erik Zabel, who was

For the third time in the seven-day ‘D-Tour’, Jan Ullrich was not afraid to work for his T-Mobile team in the final kilometres of Sunday’s final stage. And again it was all for nothing as the team’s top sprinter Erik Zabel could only manage twelfth place on the day – and that meant that it was the first Tour of Germany he had taken part in without winning a stage. Ullrich, too, disappointed. On Saturday’s mountain stage, Andreas Kloden was able to leapfrog him as best T-Mobile finisher, sixth, 0.57 off the pace of overall winner Patrik Sinkewitz (Quick Step), with Ullrich one place behind, 0.59 down. T-Mobile directeur sportif Mario Kummer again insisted on Sunday evening that Ullrich was heading in the right direction, fitness-wise, for the Tour, but when asked how much of a disaster it was that the team had failed to win a stage at their home tour, snapped: “Don’t forget we won the overall team prize.” True, officially and statistically, T-Mobile were the D-Tour’s best team, but smaller German squad Gerolsteiner came away with Zabel’s former lead-out man Danilo Hondo having won the blue jersey as the race’s best sprinter. And Belgian team Quick Step’s only German rider, Sinkewitz, took a fantastic stage win on Wednesday’s finish at the Austrian ski resort of Saint Anton, and held his overall lead all the way to Leipzig without ever coming under serious fire from Ullrich and T-Mobile. Quick Step also took a further two stages through their young sprinter Tom Boonen to bring their total haul to three stages out of a possible seven. Just one would have been enough for T-Mobile and their loyal fans who crowded around the team bus each morning for up to three quarters of an hour just to get a glimpse of Ullrich. And many of them will also be there cheering him on at the Tour de France in July, desperate for him to regain the form and the ‘jump’ that won him the Tour in 1997. On the bigger stage, they may not be so forgiving as they have been at the D-Tour if Ullrich and his magenta-clad men fail to perform. But in Sinkewitz, Germany thinks it has glimpsed the future.